When consumers are looking for something on their mobile phones, they want to find something quickly and they want to see it in a way that works on their handheld screen. Unfortunately, not everyone has caught up with the times, and we still find ourselves landing on web sites that look like this:

Mobile Unfriendly Website
Time to pinch and scroll…again.

It used to be nearly impossible to avoid these kinds of pages when looking at search engine results. Like Forrest Gump’s box of chocolates, you never knew what you were going to get when you clicked those links.

I have some bad news for mobile-unfriendly sites: Google is calling you out.

Wide-Release Callouts

Due to changes in the way Google displays results on mobile devices, it was trivial to find a site to use as an example above. How?

Mobile Unfriendly Website
One of these things is not like the others.

This isn’t entirely new, as Google has been testing icons and text callouts to direct users to mobile friendly sites for the last few years. But the official announcement means this change is here to stay in wide release. All users will now know if your website isn’t going to give them the experience they want before they even click through to it.

Sadly, I have some more bad news.

It’s Not Just Google

Bing, too, has taken the user experience into consideration when ranking ads on their search result pages. They don’t have specific callouts (yet) but your mobile-unfriendly web site could wind up lower in the results than its mobile-friendly competition. Bing explains this in a blog post from November:

  • 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

It’s Not Too Late

If your site isn’t mobile-friendly (you can find out here) there’s no reason you can’t fix it now. It’s a perfect New Year’s Resolution for your business, especially considering that there are now more people searching on mobile devices than desktop computers. Switching to a mobile-friendly site will save your site from being the odd man out and losing ground on the results pages. It might even help your online advertising efforts, as it seems likely that mobile-friendliness will be a consideration for quality scores sometime in the near future.