Which Ranking Factors are Important for Mobile Sites?

Just a few months ago there were many that declared that any business not having a mobile friendly site was going to loose out BIG TIME, all because Google was threatening to penalise any sites that did not take into account the needs of the mobile user (those who accessed the internet using mobile phones or tablets).

Mobile Friendly Websites

It seems that Google have been less stringent in the application of their own rules (nothing new there I can tell you), but the data in this blog post does seem to indicate a slow change in favour of Mobile Friendly Sites when it comes to SERPs rankings.

There are of course many ways that Google evaluates any site, mobile sites just add to the confusion a little by being it seems being looked at differently by Google. We also know that Google is only said to be showing mobile friendly sites in its listings, but even that I expect is not a 100% true.

What we can say however is that having a website that is not mobile friendly or responsive in some way to the screen size it is being viewed on, is a bit of a bad decision, at least if you are a business owner whose potential customers are likely to be viewing your site on a mobile device. This is for the simple reason that if your site cannot be used on a Smartphone etc then anyone trying to use it will just give up and that could mean lost business.

So, you need to have a mobile friendly site, there is no doubt of that, but what factors make all the difference when in comes to getting good rankings on Google?

This blog gives you some idea.

Five months after Google’s mobile friendly update, it hasn’t quite turned out to be the ‘mobilegeddon’ that some predicted.

However, it has started to make an impact, as some of the data from a new Searchmetrics’ mobile SEO report shows.

For example, the percentage of mobile friendly sites in the top 30 results on Google has increased since the beginning of the year.

Prior to the mobile-friendly update, 68 percent of ranking URLs were found to be mobile-friendly.
This share increased to 71 percent after the update.

Essentially, there have been small movements, and it seems Google is trying to push sites towards mobile gradually. I imagine that may change after a while, and perhaps we’ll see a stricter approach in future.

Given the growth of mobile, sites shouldn’t have needed a new Google update to persuade them to optimize for mobile users. Their own customers and site analytics should have provided the answer.

On the other hand, if you didn’t have a mobile site before April 2015, there was little need to rush one out in a panic. Indeed, I’ve seen examples of sites which have done exactly this and harmed their own sales or rankings.
Mobile Ranking Factors

Here are some of the factors the study looked into. Searchmetrics looked at correlations between possible ranking factors and the appearance of the mobile SERPs.

User Experience

Google is using more UX related factors in search rankings generally, and a good user experience is perhaps even more vital for mobile sites, given smaller screen sizes and variable mobile internet signals.

It has also been continued to clamp down on features which detract from mobile user experience, like those pesky app interstitials.

The study finds a correlation between UX factors, such as images, and mobile rankings.

For example, the average number of internal links is much lower in the mobile then the desktop results, as shown in the chart below:

Space between links on mobile sites is important to avoid mistaken clicks from users, and is also something Google uses as a factor in its mobile friendly test.

Here are some the ranking factors the study found to be important:

  • Larger font size
  • Both responsive design and dedicated mobile versions of sites (m.domain.tld or mobile.domain.tld) rank in the mobile SERPS
  • Less structural and interactive elements; unordered lists used more often, but with less bullets than in desktop
  • Fewer ads
    Fewer internal links
  • Fewer images than desktop.

Technical Factors

Speed is a massive factor, so sites need to minimise file sizes to improve page load times. The study found that the average mobile page file size was found to be around 25 percent smaller, allowing faster load times.

Meanwhile, just five percent of mobile pages make use of flash design which is not widely supported by mobile devices, compared with 14 percent of desktop pages.