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The mobile era has landed: Mobile responsive sites get Google’s seal of approval
Until recently, a mobile-friendly site was seen as something of a luxury. Something small businesses could take or leave with minimal impact on their sales either way.
But times are changing and Google is helping.
Over the past few weeks Google have unveiled a number of new features regarding mobile browsing. While these are being rolled out slowly – some sites have only been able to look at new metrics over the past few days – the message is clear. Making your site accessible and fully functional via mobile is no longer a fanciful option.
It’s what your customers are using to find you.
Here we’ll discuss what Google have done to help you better understand how your site performs on mobile devices.
We’ll also start with some SME data of our own to give some grounding to why Google have put a greater emphasis on mobile.
As with everything we post, if you have any comments or questions, feel free to get in touch and share your own experiences of mobile browsing and/or conversion.
The data that matters to small businesses
We know that hearing about a huge brand’s mobile revenue is of very little use to small and medium sized businesses, it’s not relevant or scalable in many cases. To give some realistic values, we’ve taken a sample of SMEs to find out how customer browsing behaviour has changed over the past year.
We compared the data from between November 2012-October 2013 and November 2013-October 2014 to determine how much mobile traffic has increased. We’ve looked into a number of industries – some of which were born for mobile (for example the property industry) and others which are potentially more suited to desktop (for example industrial services).
Below is an example of a few of the industries we sampled. The percentage indicates the increase in mobile traffic:
Beauty (B2C) – 81%
Food and drink (B2C) – 37%
Environmental (B2B) – – 9% (decrease)
Property (B2C) – 552%
Web design (B2B) – 213%
Average % increase for this period across our whole sample:
Ecommerce – 51%
Enquiry led – 146%
Most popular browsers and devices
Last month (October 2014) the Apple iPhone was the most popular device used to access our sample of websites, closely followed by the iPad. However, the two Apple devices were followed by a whole load of Samsung Galaxy devices, with the Samsung GT-I9505 Galaxy S IV leading the way.
In terms of browsers, unsurprisingly Safari was the most popular, however it was closely followed by Google Chrome.
Ultimately, our small sample shows diversity across devices and browsers.
It is entirely possible to optimise a site in order to create a consistent browsing experience across all devices and browsers. This is something our web development team implement and test before a mobile responsive site goes live.
How does your mobile usability rate?
With the level of sales and interest that mobile drives, it was only a matter of time before Google started offering dedicated insights into mobile responsive sites.
The Mobile Usability report is designed to help businesses get a better idea of what users are finding when browsing their site on mobile. You can find the new report feature in your Webmaster Tools account and it is incredibly simple to access.
Search Traffic > Mobile Usability
The Fluid Creativity site is mobile responsive so we are performing relatively well with a just a few fixable errors. Compare this with a site which isn’t mobile responsive and you can expect to see additional usability issues and high numbers of pages with errors.
Usability errors are defined by the following mobile issues:
- Touch elements too close – This refers to links and buttons which are too close together.
- Viewport not configured – The page isn’t scaled to the correct size for mobile browsers. We would expect to see this in cases where a site isn’t mobile responsive.
- Content not sized to viewport – This refers to content which may require horizontal scrolling to be viewed properly. If your site is mobile responsive, this could refer to blog posts.
- Small font size – Font sizes should adhere to mobile usability standards.
- Flash usage – This flags up pages which include Flash content which cannot be viewed on mobile.
While the Mobile Usability feature was rolled out a few weeks ago, many businesses will only just be seeing their results. We could view our Fluid Creativity errors as of this week (w/c 17/11/14).
Of course, viewing your errors via Webmaster Tools will only show you your approved accounts. However, Google have just unveiled (18/11/14) a Mobile- Friendly Test which allows you to input any URL. While we believe this is currently more widespread on US sites, it appears some large UK brands are available for analysing (for example Morrisons and Boots).
The mobile-friendly test allows you to input any URL and get a result in Google’s typical style ‘Awesome! This page is mobile-friendly’ or simply ‘not mobile- friendly’.
There’s clearly some bugs which need ironing out, but it’s a useful resource for monitoring your competitors. If they’re mobile-friendly and you’re not, based on the industry data alone, we would recommend looking into this as a priority.
How is Google treating mobile-friendly sites?
As of yesterday (18/11/14) Google are now labelling mobile-friendly sites in order to avoid directing users to unresponsive sites. This is all about avoiding a ‘frustrating situation’ as far as mobile users are concerned.
“We are also experimenting with using the mobile-friendly criteria as a ranking signal.”
– Google Webmaster Central Blog 18/11/2014
There will now be an indication that a site is mobile-friendly in the search result snippets. Naturally, we would expect click-through to be higher on these sites and the mobile-friendly results do seem to be ranking higher.
So it’s big news for little screens as Google starts offering mobile results which favour responsive sites. Based on our small sample of data, it’s clear why the big G have upped their involvement in all things mobile based.
People are using mobile to get the information/products they want. It isn’t just for the sites that you would expect either, some of our most corporate, strictly B2B samples have experienced a huge surge in mobile traffic.
Businesses that fail to compete on mobile devices will be increasingly passed up for competitors who can offer a fully functional mobile experience.
This has always been the case, but now Google are giving users a helping hand.
We would advise all clients and businesses to check their site via the Mobile Usability report before analysing their competitors via the Mobile-Friendly Test. If you’re lagging behind, then we’re available to help you provide a better experience for your customers.