Tom Williams has been on the prowl for more SEO news. This week, there's more about Google's drive to improve mobile user experience, plus some more mobile-related musings from Bing, and some surprise visitors to Google's Knowledge Graph.
There are plenty of good reasons to create a customer-friendly, search-friendly mobile website. And as of last week, there are two more – a 'mobile-friendly' label from Google, telling users about your wonderful mobile user experience, and the potential for a ranking boost in Google's mobile SERPs (search engine results pages).
After months of testing, Google is rolling out 'mobile-friendly' labels on sites that it deems... well... mobile-friendly. These labels will be displayed to users in mobile SERPs.
What's more, Google has said it is “experimenting with using the mobile-friendly criteria as a ranking signal”.
What makes a good mobile user experience in Google's eyes? Its Webmaster Central Blog post announcing the feature, webmasters should aim to create a mobile site that:
- Avoids software that is not common on mobile devices, like Flash
- Uses text that is readable without zooming
- Sizes content to the screen so users don’t have to scroll horizontally or zoom
- Places links far enough apart so that the correct one can be easily tapped
If the last headline gave you the jitters, then fear not – there's an easy way to test whether your site is worthy of Google's mobile-friendly label.
Simply go to http://www.google.com/webmasters/tools/mobile-friendly and try Google's new Mobile-Friendly Test.
You'll be provided with an image showing how Google's spiders 'see' the page, so you can immediately check for missing/incorrect elements and make judgements about where you can improve.
Oh, and Google will tell you outright whether your site is mobile-friendly or otherwise too. That's handy.
If you get a 'mobile-unfriendly' grade, the tool will tell you what you're doing wrong, and provides links to guidelines to help you bring your site up to speed.
Want to examine your mobile site in more depth? Use our free Responsive Site Checker tool!
Thought we'd finished with mobile news? Think again. Google has saved all its mobile-related newsbits for the last seven days, it seems.
Presumably in an attempt to make its own search results as mobile-friendly as possible, Google is testing a new kind of 'scrollable' answer box in mobile SERPs.
The answer box, if you're unfamiliar with the term, is the card at the top of certain search results that pulls in answers from third-party websites in an effort to answer a query.
The new version, first spotted by Mitchell Haw at Ignite Visibility, pulls in answers from multiple sites and allows users to 'flick' through the results. Here's what the new version looks like:
And here it is after scrolling through to the second result:
From a user-experience point of view, it makes sense that this feature is being tested on mobile. But might there be other reasons behind it, beyond making things better for smartphone users? Is Google worried about issues with accountability that could arise by providing a single 'canonical' result?
Let's wait and see if this rolls out on mobile and desktop...
“Hey, Bing. Heads up. Google is doing all sorts of things with mobile search. Maybe you'd better say something...”
Actually, to be fair to Bing, it announced its new mobile crawlers before Google went live with its mobile-friendly labels. But after a big week of Google mobile news, it seems a little too coincidental for Microsoft's search engine to publish a blog post further outlining its mobile-focussed attitude.
Nevertheless, there's plenty of good stuff in that post. From an SEO point of view, the biggest revelation is a section outlining how Bing ranks mobile websites.
Here's the quote in full:
- We identify and classify mobile and device-friendly web pages and websites
- We analyze web documents from a mobile point-of-view by looking at:
- Content compatibility
- Content readability
- Mobile functionality (to weed out “junk”, that is pages that are 404 on mobile or Flash only etc.)
- Return more mobile-friendly URLs to the mobile SERP
- Ranking the results pages based on all of the above
This is an undoubtedly simplified version of Bing's mobile ranking process – the blog post itself says that there's some hush-hush techniques going on behind the scenes (or, to quote the post verbatim, some “Secret Squirrel stuff”). Nonetheless, it's provides a useful glimpse into Bing's way of doing things.
A few years ago, Google got grumblers a-grumbling by deciding to show only Google+ posts alongside Knowledge Graph Results.
For example, if a user searches 'Lady Gaga', they would only see her Google+ activity in Knowledge Graph – if she was posting to her Facebook page, they'd have to go to Facebook to find out.
(As Marketing Land pointed out back in 2012, this may have been a big driver behind Gaga's decision to join Google's social network.)
But last Tuesday, things changed. Journalist Bernd Rubel spotted that other social networks were appearing alongside celebrities' Knowledge Graph Results.
Here's an example of search results for the band U2, with Myspace, Twitter and Facebook appearing alongside the Google-owned YouTube and Google+.
Whether this is a test, or a permanent change, it seems to signal that Google may be winding down its Google+-centric attitude to search.
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