Google users worldwide will now see “mobile-friendly” labels in their results when searching from tablets and smartphones, SEO Roundtable reported Dec. 10.
The words, which are an unobtrusive light gray, are placed before the snippet previewed in results, alongside information such as an article’s posting date.
Google has been testing various similar icons and labels for more than a year, and began rolling out the label in the U.S. Nov. 18.
Google’s increasing emphasis on mobile user experience has prompted intense discussion since early October over whether mobile usability would soon become a factor in the search giant’s ranking algorithms. And although that hasn’t happened yet, Google said in a statement about the new label that “We are also experimenting with using the mobile-friendly criteria as a ranking signal.”
The Primacy of Mobile
But even if Google doesn’t start prioritizing mobile-friendly sites in its results, there are numerous incentives to improve mobile user experiences. Early this year, mobile Internet usage surpassed desktop usage for the first time, with industry players such as Search Engine Watch calling the shift the biggest “since the Internet began.”
It was only a few years ago that having a mobile version of one’s website was considered merely an extra for a business. Now, web consultants are saying that online success will require a mobile-first mentality.
Search Engine Land reported Dec. 5 that in 2015, online marketers will spend more on mobile search (encompassing both search engine optimization and pay-per-click advertising) than they will on desktop.
According to research firm eMarketer, spending on mobile marketing made up less than 25% of total spending last year. This year that number went up to 38.1%, and is projected to reach 50.1% next year. By 2018, a complete reversal will have taken place, with nearly 77% of digital marketing spending being accounted for by mobile.
Taking Control of Mobile
Businesses who aren’t sure if their company websites are mobile-friendly — or who want to earn that label — can use Google Webmaster Tools to identify problems, the company said. Mobile-friendly websites should not have Flash content, should be sized so that users do not need to pan or zoom, and should not have buttons or links that are too close together.
Responsive sites, which recognize the devices accessing them and reconfigure for easy viewing, are growing in popularity as companies and webmasters rush to replace outdated designs.