In February, Google announced that websites it deems “mobile-friendly” will now rank higher than others in organic search results when the searches are done from a mobile device. Not surprisingly, this has caused a lot of businesses to think critically about their digital strategies and how they support mobile customers.

Google’s assessment of what constitutes mobile-friendly includes six factors that are crucial in understanding responsive design. These items can be found in the Mobile Usability Report via Webmaster tools or in the Mobile-Friendly Test.

If you check your site, there are a range of errors you may see. Here’s a breakdown about what those those mean.

Content Not Sized for Viewport

This means that the content does not fit the mobile device. Users have to pinch and zoom to read.

Viewport Not Configured

This means that your site should be specifying viewport sizes when users go to it. These tell the browser how to respond to various mobile screen sizes.

Fixed-Width Viewport

If your site’s viewport sizes are rigid, meaning they only conform to certain sizes, Google will give you an error in your mobile usability report. Google wants you to have a responsive site that can accommodate all device sizes.

Small Font Size

This means the font on the mobile view of the site isn’t sized appropriately to the device. As a website gets smaller to accommodate small screens, the font size should get larger to make it more readable.

Touch Elements Too Close

This means that links, buttons, and other items with which users interact are too close together to be usable. Users could accidentally touch the wrong thing on the screen and get frustrated. Smaller viewports need to accommodate a generous area for users to touch elements on the screen.

Many businesses are asking how and whether this algorithm change will really influence search rankings. Will sites that aren’t mobile-friendly be pushed so far down in the rankings that users can’t find them? The truth is that we don’t know. One small-scale study of law firm sites suggests that the impact has been small. There are many factors that go into a search ranking beyond just mobile-friendliness. As the impacts are measured in the coming months, we’ll be eager to hear the effects of this change and to find out how dramatic it’s been.

What About Bing?

Though Google is considered the search leader, they are not the only search engine in town. Bing recently announced they will also be using mobile-friendliness in rankings. Their changes however, are much less dramatic. Just like Google, they will indicate mobile-friendliness in results, but Bing plans on prioritizing relevance so that non-responsive sites will still maintain ranking.

Bing’s algorithm will be looking at navigation, readability, scrolling, and compatibility to determine whether a site is mobile friendly. Bing does not yet have a tool to assess mobile friendliness, but will release one in the coming weeks.

Regardless of the details, it is clear that a website’s mobile-friendliness is increasingly important to search rankings and user experience. Google recently announced that searches initiated on a mobile device have surpassed those on desktops. This suggests that mobile-responsive sites are now the rule, not the exception.

If you’re interested in a mobile or responsive redesign of your site, contact us!