PMG Digital Made for Humans

What We Found From Doing a Boatload of “Mobile-Friendly” Audits

3 MINUTE READ | May 19, 2015

What We Found From Doing a Boatload of “Mobile-Friendly” Audits

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John Greer

John Greer has written this article. More details coming soon.

Google’s doing their best to judge “mobile friendly” sites vs. sites that were built with desktop-only users in mind (or, in some cases, seemingly no one at all).

Most of the advice for the Google “mobile friendly” algorithm update is a bit like vague health advice. “Just eat well, get plenty of sleep and lots of exercise,” says Dr. Google.

So that begs the questions, how much is plenty of sleep? How long should I exercise? Are we talking gluten-free or can I chow down one more cinnamon roll?

“Just make your site mobile friendly” also may leave you wondering exactly how Google will judge these qualities.

During the PMG SEO team’s review of over a dozen sites in the mobile-friendly tool, we found a few patterns that may help you know how to “just be mobile-friendly:”

  1. Crowded Footers. We came across many sites that were well designed for mobile, but had footer links that were too crowded together. Tiny links are OK for a desktop footer, but pretty useless if you can’t tap any of the links on mobile.

  2. Viewport issues. Multiple mobile-friendly errors relate to the viewport HTML tag. A number of sites triggered errors relating to a missing or improperly sized viewport.

  3. Blocked resources. A number of sites also accidentally failed the test because their mobile CSS and JS files were blocked by their robots.txt file. That’s kind of like telling Google “You can’t look at it, but trust us, this site is totally mobile friendly.”

  4. Think Mobile on Every Page. A number of sites were great on 99% of pages, but all of the “one off” landing pages made for special campaigns or promotions were designed for desktop only. It might be an extra effort, but it’s usually worth designing for mobile as well.

Everyone’s had the experience of tapping the wrong link on their phone/tablet/phablet. Google’s mobile-friendly scoring accounts for that by dinging sites when links/ tap targets are too close together.

However, Google doesn’t take into account when two adjacent targets link to the same URL. In that case, it’s not something that should be counted as a problem.

For example, the menu below is actually two images linking to the same URL that Google labeled as “unfriendly”:

Hamburger Menu

This might seem like an odd case, but we actually ran across this case on more than one site. Considering that this influences organic rankings on mobile, we’d like to see Google address this.

That leads us to our last tip: Combine adjacent images that link to the same URL. At least, until this bug is fixed.

So after all the hype, we looked back at the before and after mobile ranking changes of a number of phrases. Overall here are some of the results we saw:

  • For the most part, highly competitive nonbrand keywords already returned mostly mobile-friendly sites, keeping the results very similar.

  • Because of this, sites in the industries that PMG usually watch (travel, retail, luxury, etc.) had small gains with a few sites dropping here and there, or big drops from not keeping up with the competition.

  • Pages that were not mobile friendly did see drops in rankings.

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Hopefully your site was among those that fared well, or this gives you a few ideas of what to address on your site!

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