On April 21st Google will heavily impact search results for mobile users leaving many website owners scrambling to tick the mobile friendly box, but the question is that is having a page that passes as mobile friendly enough and should you be complacent?
Google has dropped a few pretty big hints that the speed of your website could become really important:
The slow tag in SERPs
Google has been testing showing a slow tag on its search result pages for mobile users. This could be really useful for people who are trying to find information while browsing on a mobile device via their mobile phone network. I expect that this could come into effect on or soon after April the 21st. This may not be a penalty but could severely impact click through rates.
Google launches a new light version of its website
Google sent a clear message about their dedication to mobile users by launching a lighter version of their website that will show for mobile users with slower speed connections. By showing for only people on slow connections it is clear that they are measuring user speeds and it is not unreasonable to expect that they would not show websites that they (Google) deem as slow to these users.
So what should you do?
Well the first thing that you should do is not to be complacent. In the past people have often ridiculed SEO’s asking for speed improvements to websites, and in some cases it is just stupid to fret over 0.03% improvement on some issue to improve a Google page speed score. But you should definitely look to make sure that your website is as mobile friendly and efficient as is practical to do so.
Common issues that seem to slow websites down significantly are:
- Images that are not optimized for mobile. A full size image reduced to size to fit still needs the full file size to be downloaded. Ideally you should set up your website to show smaller file size images for mobile and tablet devices.
- Remove any unused tracking scripts. Often it is third party scripts that slow down a website’s load time. It is easy to add a few for tracking, and then one for usability studying etc. It is important to look at reducing these, especially if they are no longer being used. You may look at one and think “Oh it’s only 150ms that it is adding to the page load” but that multiplied for users on a ropey mobile connection could be the straw that broke the camel’s back.
- Enabling compression – This can be done easily with plugins or by editing the htaccess file.
My website doesn’t get a lot of mobile traffic why should I care?
If you don’t get much mobile traffic you may need to worry less about the update on the 21st for the immediate future but if your website relies on traffic that comes from search engines you need to ask yourself this: Where do you think it will stop? It won’t be too far into the distant future when a website that is fully responsive and mobile friendly will be deemed as higher quality than an equal site that isn’t.
So should you be complacent with a mobile friendly badge? No, I don’t think so unless you have done all that you can to ensure that your website is as fast and friendly as possible, or you could find your sit being beat by others who have similar quality content websites that have gone the extra mile.