How Failing the Mobile Test is Killing Your SEO

Your Site Isn’t Mobile Friendly: How Failing the Mobile Test is Killing Your SEO

Think mobile friendliness only matters if you’re specifically targeting local audiences? Think again. With Google’s mobile-first indexing now fully rolled out, having an optimized mobile site is mandatory for ranking in 2023 and moving into 2024.

Recent data shows over 60% of all Google searches now happen on smartphones. And that share continues rising annually as mobile web browsing time surpasses desktop. With mobile dominating the world’s largest search engine, Google updated its algorithms to favor sites delivering great user experiences on phones and tablets.

In this article, we’ll cover why mobile optimization must be a top priority, how to test your site’s readiness now, the specific elements that can cause mobile UX friction for rankings and steps to achieve mobile-friendly status across Google.

How Failing The Mobile Test Is Killing Your Seo Venice Web Design Company

Embrace Mobile-First as the New SEO Reality

Back when smartphones first emerged, few predicted the speed at which mobile would displace desktop to become most users’ primary way of accessing the internet. Early on, creating a dedicated mobile site or responsive site that formatted for phones was considered an extra perk.

But now that shift has firmly taken hold, forever changing how we have to design online experiences. Google cemented mobile optimization as an indispensable ingredient for succeeding in SEO with two landmark algorithm updates:

  1. Mobilegeddon – 2015 Algorithm Update The first wave of mobile prioritization came via Google’s “Mobilegeddon” update on April 21, 2015. The search engine giant warned sites that failed deliver good mobile user experiences would see their rankings suffer when searches happened on mobile devices.
  2. Mobile-First Indexing Rollout – 2018 to Present Fast forward three years and Google introduced an even more impactful change by shifting its entire index to mobile-first. This meant the mobile version of site pages became the main version evaluated by Googlebot and used for evaluating page content and rankings factors.

With mobile-first indexing now complete since March 2021, the stakes for having an incredibly fast, easy to use, technically flawless mobile site have never been higher. Usability problems and deficiencies that previously only slightly impaired mobile traffic can now tank your entire site’s standings.

And with mobile search dominance projected to rise to over 73% by next year according to Statista, no brand can afford to risk their rankings by failing to address mobile site experience issues in 2023.

Assessing Your Site’s Current Mobile Friendliness

Before diving into resolving mobile site roadblocks, you first need to diagnose if and where current problems exist. Attempting to manually test a site across various devices with different mobile browsers and screen sizes poses an exercise in futility.

Instead, turn to Google’s own free Mobile-Friendly Test tool for an official verdict dictating your real world rankings impact. Just enter any URL and the tool will scan multiple pages assessing elements critical for mobile SEO.

In a matter of seconds, you’re presented with either a green “Mobile Friendly” badge confirming site pages present no major mobile issues…or the dreaded “Not Mobile Friendly” label listing why your site failed to meet mobile best practice criteria.

Beyond the overall pass/fail grade, scroll down to view detailed feedback on any pages containing:

  • Small Tap Targets
  • Fonts Too Small to Read
  • Excessive Horizontal Scrolling
  • Issues with Viewport Settings
  • Form Input Issues Detected
  • Critical Content Cut Off on View
  • Incompatible Plugins Detected

With this list of mobile usability pain points called out page-by-page, you gain precise areas requiring attention to achieve mobile friendly status across Google. Expect to encounter a combination of design elements and technical configurations covered next causing your mobile troubles.

Elements that Crush Mobile Site Experience

Google wants mobile sites fast, easy to read, tap and navigate for extended periods comfortably without readers abandoning in frustration. Their ideal stands as a responsive site adjusting seamlessly across varying device sizes rather than forcing horizontal scrolling or tiny targets.

Start troubleshooting your mobile issues using this checklist of common pitfalls outside Google’s guidelines:

Font Sizes Too Small Having font sizes scaling fluidly is great in theory so text isn’t gigantic on desktop. But anything below 12px proves difficult to read for extended periods on phones without zooming. Anything below 8px often ends up entirely illegible without pinching to zoom constantly. Specify minimum font sizes in your CSS targeting mobile media queries.

Excessive Vertical Scrolling Scrolling vertically to an extent is expected on phones unlike desktop sites fitting above the fold. But sites that force scrolling for 5+ screens lengths risk annoying users unsure what information awaits at the very bottom. Look to consolidate content, implement accordions for long lists or at least anchor link key sections.

Intrusive Overlays Causing Obstructions

Whether subscription popups, location permission requests or full page announcements, overlays almost always damage mobile experience blocking content from displaying properly. Rely instead on passive non-obtrusive components for engagement requests. And never force interactions blocking mobile visitors from actually accessing your content upon landing.

Inadequate Click/Tap Target Sizing With fingers far less precise than mouse movements, mobile sites require larger spacing between links and buttons for error free navigation. Target sizes at least 40px x 40px give enough room to enable accurate tapping without risk of accidentally triggering nearby functions.

Failure to Set Proper Viewport Meta Tag By dictating optimal rendering dimensions for a mobile browser, the viewport meta tag ensures site content fits without awkward text or image overflow issues. Omitting this tag altogether leads to mobile sites appearing zoomed out or overflowing awkwardly.

Reliance on Flash Rather Than HTML5 Once synonymous with cutting edge web design, Adobe Flash Content relies on plugins incompatible with iOS and many modern mobile devices. Prioritize conversion to HTML5 canvas, JavaScript and WebGL animations over legacy Flash elements to allow full mobile site functionality.

Lack of Tap Highlighting on Links/Buttons While not an outright deal breaker, absence of any color change for links and buttons on tap leads to a diminished experience feeling unresponsive. Implement CSS styling like brightening colors, underlines or box shadows on active states provides visual feedback confirming mobile visitors’ intended actions.

How to Achieve Mobile-Friendly Success

Optimizing an outdated site or launching a fresh mobile-first responsive site takes planning and strategic implementation touching site-wide design, development and server-side considerations.

Rather than tackling every potential roadblock in one monumental redesign project, break priorities into digestible phases:

Phase 1: Content + Navigation Start responsive restructuring around information architecture and streamlining content for smaller screens. Improved clarity and findability form the backbone before visual design.

Phase 2: Technical Credibility With content mapped out, transition underlying infrastructure to modern lightweight frameworks. Enable compression, adopt HTTPS security protocols and balanced hosting for speed.

Phase 3: Visual Design Enhancements Cement great first impressions on mobile with attention to fonts, click/tap spacing, streamlined layouts and styling that looks cohesive across devices.

Phase 4: Conversion Optimization
Monitor analytics to catch lingering mobile friction points diminishing conversions. A/B test improvements to lead gen forms, checkout flows, error messaging and site interactions until optimized.

Earning the coveted mobile-friendly seal of approval from Google protects your SEO visibility as smartphone adoption continues rising globally. Using tools like Think with Google’s Mobile UX report coupled with the actionable tips outlined here empowers your technical teams and agencies alike to maximize mobile opportunity.

The question is no longer if mobile optimization matters for overall SEO health. Mobile readiness now determines whether your other search marketing efforts prove fruitful or futile. Commit today to overcoming common mobile pitfalls for a site ready to rank in our increasingly mobile-first world.

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