November 19, 2014

Brrr! Google Hands Out Mobile-Friendly Labels Just in Time for Code Freeze

It’s official. Google is rolling out new mobile-friendly labels in its search listings. In other words: Mobile SEO is now a requirement for mobile commerce and anyone who hasn’t made an effort to get on Google’s mobile nice list may well find a few lumps of coal from Google in their m-commerce stockings this holiday season.

The timing of the news is not coincidental. For those of you who thought you’d put off those pesky mobile optimization efforts until after the holidays, think again. Google has been working to improve the mobile searcher experience for over a year, and mobile search figures to play a bigger role than ever for shoppers this holiday season.

The Gist of Today’s News
Essentially, this latest update means Google will give a virtual gold star to mobile-optimized sites and potentially a visual slap on the wrist to those that serve mobile users content that requires pinching-and-zooming, horizontal scrolling, or incompatible software (like Flash). Google also indicates they’ll use these labels to start rewarding mobile-friendly sites with higher mobile search rankings (meaning more mobile commerce) starting in the 2014 holiday shopping season.

Mobile shoppers searching for Xbox One gifts this holiday season will find a new label on retailer listings that Google views as mobile-friendly. In this case, product pages at and have the mobile-friendly label, while Best Buy, Walmart, and GameStop pages do not. This may discourage mobile searchers from clicking these brands to purchase.

One area of concern for retailers or others that use mdot pages and mobile redirects: if we consider this new mobile friendliness requirement alongside existing Google policy that punishes irrelevant redirects, we are left to conclude that it’s no longer good enough to send mobile users to a relevant desktop page when a mobile version doesn’t exist (in spite of what Google’s documentation says on this matter). Avoiding mobile downgrades now and in the future requires a relevant -AND- mobile-friendly page, which is what makes this news so significant, especially with the holiday shopping season right around the corner.

To sum up, ignoring this change could have adverse effects on your holiday revenue. As we found in the 2015 Mobile 500 guide, those merchants who have properly configured their mdot mobile pages (and mobile redirects), dynamically served mobile content, or responsive design pages can expect to see mobile commerce gains.

Free Mobile SEO Tests
In the same announcement, Google wrapped up a gift to mobile marketers in the form of a simple mobile-friendly test tool. If you are just getting started, this can be a useful way to gauge mobile usability. Just enter a page URL and Google returns a green light / red light assessment of your site’s mobile friendliness.

While it’s great to see high-level results whether a site passes Google’s muster, there may be technical issues beneath the surface that need to be addressed to boost mobile rankings in Google and Bing. For this, we recommend our free tool, Mobile SEO Page Analyzer.

Mobile Page Analyzer's mobile SEO audit results for Amazon, showing the type of mobile page (eg separate mobile URLs, dynamic mobile serving, or responsive design) served to the iPhone, Android, and Windows Phone user-agents used by Google and Bing smartphone crawlers, followed by key mobile SEO signals detected for each mobile type, including mobile redirect configuration, use of bidirectional annotation tags, page speed, and more.

Many retailers, agencies, and mobile marketers use Mobile Page Analyzer to get specific details on how Google and Bing view their page elements from a mobile SEO standpoint and hone in on what precisely needs to be fixed to get mobile shoppers where they expect to be.


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