Google Emphasizes Mobile Device Compatibility for Websites

LOS ANGELES — With a goal of helping its users find mobile-friendly pages, Google has issued a set of new webmaster guidelines and tools to help developers cater to today’s Internet users.

“Have you ever tapped on a Google Search result on your mobile phone, only to find yourself looking at a page where the text was too small, the links were tiny, and you had to scroll sideways to see all the content?” asks Google Mobile Search team member Ryoichi Imaizumi on the company’s Webmaster Central Blog, explaining that “This usually happens when the website has not been optimized to be viewed on a mobile phone.”

Characterizing it as a frustrating experience for the firm’s mobile searchers, it is a problem the search giant has set out to solve — making it easier for people to find the information that they’re looking for by adding a “mobile-friendly” label to its mobile search results — a change that will reportedly roll out over the next few weeks.

Google notes that a page is eligible for the “mobile-friendly” label if its Googlebot spider detects that a site avoids software that is not common on mobile devices, such as Adobe Flash, and uses fonts and text sizes that are readable without zooming.

Other Google requirements include sizing content to the screen so that a site’s visitors will not have to scroll horizontally or zoom and that the links are large and far enough apart so that the correct one can easily be tapped on a small screen.

Google is lending a helping hand in this process by offering a Mobile-Friendly Test tool that evaluates if a specified page meets its mobile-friendly criteria — and has also updated the detailed documentation on its Webmasters Mobile Guide, which reveals how to create and improve a mobile site.

A mobile usability report is available in Google Webmaster Tools, highlighting the major mobile usability problems that may be occurring throughout a site, not just one page, as is revealed in the page specific Mobile-Friendly Test tool.

Users of popular third-party software such as WordPress will also find a how-to guide on migrating sites hosted on a content management system to mobile-friendly templates.

While these tools and documentation are currently only available in English, multiple translations are  expected within the next few weeks.

“We see these labels as a first step in helping mobile users to have a better mobile web experience [and] are also experimenting with using the mobile-friendly criteria as a ranking signal,” Google Mobile Search team member Doantam Phan explains. “We hope to see many more mobile-friendly websites in the future [so] let’s make the web better for all users!”

The writing is on the wall, so if you are responsible for getting traffic from Google, make sure that your site’s visitors enjoy a mobile friendly user experience.