Google Throws Down the Mobile Optimization Gauntlet


June 20, 2013

Google just changed the mobile landscape with their new optimization rules, and I summed them up below on The Flores Shop Blog.

With global mobile internet traffic projected to surpass desktop internet traffic by 2014*, Google is gearing up for the pivot by leveraging a search ranking ultimatum: make it mobile-friendly or they’ll hold your rankings hostage.

How can you keep your search rankings as high as possible? Avoid these common mistakes:

###1. Faulty Redirects

If you have distinct URLs for your desktop and mobile sites, make sure that your redirects send to directly corresponding mobile links set up that directly correspond to the desktop link.

For example, if you have a website.com/about page and a m.website.com/about page, make sure your website.com/about links to m.website.com/about and doesn’t send the user straight to the homepage, website.com.

###2. Smartphone-only 404 pages

It is better to serve the desktop site than to serve a 404 page every time a mobile user accesses a non-mobile-optimized site. Better still, make sure every aspect of your site is mobile-optimized. After all, a majority of your site’s traffic will soon be from mobile devices – 2014 is coming!

###3. UNPLAYABLE VIDEOS

Flash is almost dead, but we can’t completely send it the way of the Dodo without your help! Most mobile devices have discontinued their Flash support and have transitioned to HTML5 and its supported codecs to serve video content to mobile users.

Google wants to ensure all mobile users can view the content on the web without any issues, but why do they still allow YouTube videos to be set to viewable only on desktop? They need to get with their own program.

###4. Page Speed

Load times continue to be an important optimization factor – especially for mobile devices. I average 4 down and 2.5 up 3 bars of my AT&T 4G connection, which isn’t bad, but it’s no Gigabit connection. Keeping render times under 1 second on mobile devices (and desktop, too) will keep mobile users and Google happy.

When mobile devices first began accessing the internet, sites that were optimized for mobile were an afterthought. It won’t be long before all sites are optimized for mobile first, with desktop sites being the afterthought. This is the first of many steps Google and the web as a whole will take to demand that the mobile experience is a top priority for those designing and building those experiences. The only question that remains is how long will it take for you to climb aboard and ensure the best experience possible for your users – desktop and mobile alike.

*Every article known-to-man regarding desktop vs. mobile traffic cites the “Queen of the Net” Mary Meeker’s data. She has confirmed that mobile traffic has already (intermittently) eclipsed desktop traffic in India. This article on Business Insider from last week confirms we’re still on track for the 2014 Desktopocalypse.

This article was written by Caitlyn Mayers, The Flores Shop’s newest*** secret weapon. She is the shop’s designerd and tech guru extraordinaire – feel free to follow her on Twitter, App.net or drop her a line at caitlyn [at] thefloresshop [dot] com to continue the never-ending tech talk.

**Caitlyn has been working at The Flores Shop for almost 2 years now. She has been thoroughly vetted and our audience has finally been given clearance to learn about Project Caitlyn. We’re still working on her business cards.