Mobile User Experience May Soon Impact Google Rankings

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Craig Smith  |  Founder & CEO

Back in May of this year, Google revealed that when GoogleBot crawls your website, it not only sees all the coding hidden beneath the pages, but also the layout and design of your site in both desktop and mobile settings exactly as a human visitor would see it. Which left the question: Why does GoogleBot need all this visual information? In a statement to Search Engine Land this week, a Google spokesperson explained, “Because at Google we are aiming to provide a great user experience on any device, we’re making a big push to ensure the search results we deliver reflect this principle.” And the best way to ensure search results honor that principle is to tie user experience to rankings.

Although it has yet to be explicitly said, it seems likely that Google may start using GoogleBot’s visual surveys to evaluate mobile user experience and use it as a ranking factor.

So just how accurate is GoogleBot’s eyesight? Consider it about 20/20, plus X-ray vision. For example, the bot is capable of not only reading the font size you have designated in your coding but also the final rendered page and how the font’s size appears on various mobile platforms. Beware of fonts shrinking in size once rendered with JavaScript and CSS.

Although Google will see your intended font size of, say, 16 pixels in the HTML, it probably won’t be forgiving if it actually displays as half that size on a smartphone. Also take note of any zooming and panning users may need to do to view your site on the go. Such obstacles to a smooth mobile experience push away customers, with 61 percent of users saying they likely wouldn’t return to such a site, according to a Google survey. And if it pushes away customers, Googlebot will notice.

Mobile user experience isn’t currently a ranking factor, however, history tells us that when Google makes mention of a subject like this, an algorithm change is likely. See your site through Google’s eyes with Fetch as Google and get a headstart before any updates are made.

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