This week Google started promoting mobile optimized websites in their search results:
Frankly I'm amazed it's taken Google this long to implement, however for mobile users it's a welcome addition to the search experience that alleviates the pain of clicking on a link only to find a desktop site at the other end. Now the consumer is in control and armed upfront with a Google endorsement of mobile readiness. This strategy is part of an evolution of preemptive warnings for mobile search users. Earlier this year Google started warning mobile users of destinations using Flash or destinations with broken links that would result in a re-direction to the destination homepage.
For eBusiness professionals this change to Google's mobile search strategy is a big deal, especially if your site is either not mobile optimized or your mobile site doesn't yet pass Google's criteria for mobile optimization. As this change becomes familiar to mobile users, they will inevitably learn to avoid search results that are missing Google's "mobile friendly" endorsement. Furthermore Google has indicated an intent to start using the "mobile-friendly" criteria in their ranking algorithms. So what steps must eBusiness professionals take to ensure compliance? First use Google's mobile friendly test tool to see if your site is in compliance:
If your mobile site was built using Responsive Web Design (RWD) or your have an adaptive mobile site that uses the same URL structure as your desktop site, the chances are you will be in good shape and qualify for the new endorsement. But eBusiness professionals that have built standalone m. sites may be in trouble. For example Chico's mobile site (m.chicos.com) is considered non-compliant by Google (note the lack of the "mobile friendly" endorsement)
In this example, Chico's is preventing the Googlebot agent from accessing their m. site (against Google's recommendations). The reason for this restriction is likely part of a strategy to try and improve SEO performance, however this configuration is now causing a more serious issue. Many of the other mobile sites I tested that use a separate URL (m.) configuration such as 1800Flowers also failed to pass Google's test for "mobile-friendly".
If your site is failing for whatever reason, it's important to get your development team involved right away and make sure that a) your site is following all of Google's best practices for mobile optimization and b) you are following all of Forrester's recommendations for effective mobile search marketing performance.
The new "mobile-friendly" endorsement is likely just one step on Google's path to policing mobile experience compliance. In the future we may see similar tactics implemented for sites that are not optimized for tablet browsers or a change in strategy to explicitly add warning signs to sites that are not mobile optimized (rather than endorsing those that are).