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How to Get the “Mobile-Friendly” Icon in Google Search Results

March 19, 2015

By Andrew Macey

Mobile search is increasing daily. Whether searchers are literally on the go, or using a variety of devices, the importance for a mobile-friendly website is greater than ever.  As a way to increase the user experience of these mobile searchers, Google has developed a “mobile-friendly” label to appear next to search results from mobile devices.  There have been a couple of iterations of this label tested by Google so far, however currently, if you were to search from a mobile device, you will see a grey “mobile-friendly” icon alongside certain results.  This notification is used as a go-ahead message to ensure mobile searchers that the corresponding page is setup properly for their device.  We all know firsthand the disappointment of reaching a website that is not optimized properly for mobile.  In this case, we are faced with shrunken text, the need to scroll from side to side, as well as an overall clunky-ness felt on the page.  This new icon is designed to minimize these experiences and provide priority to those sites properly setup for mobile.

Every marketer should work to make sure their website has this icon alongside their search results.  Just as one’s meta description entices searchers to click on one result over the other, searchers will begin to look for this badge as a “green light” to move forward.  Conversely, those pages without this icon will undoubtedly result in fewer clicks and views.

Fortunately, there is no secret behind what it takes to achieve this icon.  Google has made it clear as to what is looked for, with hopes that all sites move in this direction.  As you can suspect, each piece focuses around the user experience of the searcher:

Rules for Getting the Mobile-Friendly Icon

  • Mobile Responsiveness: It is important that one’s site sizes correctly so that all content is visible on the screen without the need to scroll horizontally.  With the various sizes of mobile devices, having a site that adjusts properly to the display will not only eliminate significant frustration for visitors, but will also allow all of your content to be seen and prioritized on the site.  This will ensure that no content or images are cut off and therefore missed.

  • Properly-Sized Text: In addition to sizing the overall site properly, choosing appropriately-sized text is also a priority.  Google sees small text which needs to be zoomed-in on as a poor user experience and therefore will not provide this seal of approval.  Make sure to use text that is easily readable when the page loads up and alleviates the need to zoom.  Another point to consider when planning text on your site is to refrain from long-form paragraphs.  On a small device, this content can seem to go on forever with no end.  Be sure to keep the content short and well laid-out, using bullet points and lists to get your message across.

  • Link Placement: One aspect of a site that many may overlook is the placement and sizing of links.  As many pages are built to encourage additional click-throughs, it is important to place links appropriately so that they are easy to click on.   Often, links can be squished together or layered upon one another in a list, which makes it difficult to actually tap the correct one.  Keep this in mind when placing links on your site. Be sure to add necessary spacing and padding so that the user can clearly tap the intended link.

  • Avoid Uncommon Software: There are certain pieces of software that cannot load properly on a mobile website.  A common example of this is Flash.  Using software that is unable to load and slows down the webpage itself will certainly keep your website from earning the “mobile-friendly” icon.  A great way to test this is using the mobile usability report in webmaster tools, or simply opening up your site on a mobile device and making sure everything is loading properly.  Site that are built with mobile users in mind generally do not include these particular pieces of software, however it is still important to note.

As the importance of usability for mobile visitors increases, Google’s “mobile-friendly” icon will certainly be the must-have across all sites.  Even early on, many search results already have this displayed, and the total number will continue to increase daily.  It’s important to have your site setup properly for mobile visitors to increase engagement as well as prioritize key content on your site.  

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Topics: Web Development, Website Design, Responsive Design, User Experience