Since early 2015, Google’s algorithms have been factoring a website’s mobile friendliness into its search rankings. Simply put, Google rewards websites optimized for viewing on smartphones and other mobile devices with higher rankings in its search results.
As if that’s not enough reason for having a mobile friendly website, consider this: in the coming months, Google will create a separate mobile directory that will become the primary index it uses for responding to search queries. The company will continue to maintain a desktop index as well, but it will be less current than the mobile version.
The changes are Google’s attempt to make searching more relevant for the rapidly increasing number of smartphone-dependent—users who rely on their phones and tablets for accessing the Internet.
If your site is not optimized for mobile friendliness—and even if it is—here are some simple things you can do to improve your visitors’ overall mobile experience.
1. Add a viewport <meta> tag.
The viewport <meta> tag tells a visitor’s browser how to scale your web page’s content. The viewport is a page’s visible area, and it varies in size with every device. Without the tag, visitors must view a tiny, scaled-down version of your desktop layout on their smaller screens.
Including the viewport <meta> tag is as simple as adding the following line of code after the <head> tag in your site’s header.php:
<meta name=”viewport” content=”width=device-width, initial-scale=1″>
If terms such as meta, head, and header.php are new to you, don’t worry; your web developer should know how to make the update.
2. Utilize the convenience of clicking.
The less complicated your site is to use, the more mobile friendly it is. Simplifying tasks into clickable buttons and links makes life much easier for your mobile visitors.
Click-to-call is a good example. By making your company’s telephone number a clickable link, you save visitors from having to manually type—or cut and paste—digits into their phones’ dialers just to call you. Here’s the html code for making a phone number a click-to-call link:
<a href=”tel:+12345678900″>Call us now at 234-567-8900</a>
Experts suggest using the international phone number format in the link, including the plus sign, country code, local area code, and local number. That way click-to-call will work from wherever mobile visitors are calling.
3. Resist opening linked pages in new windows.
Once we finally get someone to our website, why make it easy for them to leave? That’s the thought process many web designers follow when programming external links to open in separate browser windows. The theory is that by keeping our page in a separate window, visitors are not actually leaving the site.
But in practice, opening a new window creates inconvenience for visitors. For one thing, users lose the ability to hit “back” to return to your page. So, while we would rather visitors not leave, we want to make it easy for them to return.
What’s more, opening links in new windows leaves visitors uncertain how your page works compared to popular sites. Because major websites such as Google and Amazon typically open links in the same window, visitors tend to expect links on unfamiliar pages to act the same.
4. Eliminate pop-ups and other annoying interruptions.
Interruptive web ads are almost always irritating, whether you’re visiting a site from a desktop or a mobile device. But for on-the-go mobile users, the intrusions can cut into already fragmented online time. That’s why Google is cracking down on mobile pop-ups.
Pop-up ads, or interstitials as Google calls them, block immediate access to a page’s content. And, oftentimes, users must dismiss the ads before regaining access. Starting in 2017, Google will rank sites containing interstitials lower in search results than those without.
If you generate revenue by placing advertising pop-ups on your website, you’ll need to weigh the tradeoff between income and SEO. But if mobile friendliness is your goal, interstitials have no place on your site.
5. Start with a Responsive design.
Of course, in a perfect world, your site would come with built-in mobile friendliness. If you’re considering a website redesign, be sure to ask the developer to use responsive design.
A responsive website is programmed so its content layout automatically adjusts to fit any size electronic device (i.e., desktop, laptop, tablet, phone).
There was a time when offering a mobile friendly experience required maintaining separate website versions for desktops and mobile devices. The benefit of responsive design is that it allows you to have a single site. Therefore, be very suspicious of developers who want to charge extra for making a new website mobile friendly.
Bonus Tip. Use Google’s Mobile-Friendly Test tool.
If you’re wondering whether your website is already mobile friendly, you can find out by checking it using Google’s Mobile-Friendly Test tool. Simply type in your URL and wait a few moments while the tool analyzes your site. You’ll receive a pass/fail grade, along with suggestions for improvement.