Google is now factoring in how mobile-friendly a website is when ranking your search results on a smartphone. Pages that are optimized for smaller screens will be boosted in result versus those designed strictly for the desktop. This boost will only apply to mobile searches. Google announced plans to take this step in February, giving web developers some time to prepare, and today it’s officially going into effect. “Now searchers can more easily find high quality and relevant results where text is readable without tapping or zooming, tap targets are spaced appropriately, and the page avoids unplayable content or horizontal scrolling,” the company wrote in a blog post. The change applies to searches in all languages and in all countries where Google operates.
Google is quick to note that this “mobile-friendly update” won’t alter your top hit for every search query. If the content on a site is a better match for a given search phrase, you’re still likely to see that page given priority — regardless of how it looks on a phone. “We still use a variety of signals to rank search results,” the company. And since tablets and their larger displays offer a browsing experience that’s a bit closer to PCs, the mobile-friendly policy doesn’t extend to those device; it’s only shifting around rankings on smartphones.
Still, the change is sure to dramatically impact search-generated mobile traffic. For sites that are prepared and optimized for mobile, it’ll be a positive shift. Those that aren’t may see a dip in traffic until they update to better accommodate mobile users. If you’re unsure where a site lands on mobile friendliness, there’s a tool that can quickly scan its design and give a thumbs up or thumbs down based on Google’s criteria.