This past Spring, Google announced that sites not deemed “mobile-friendly” could face penalties in mobile search results in upcoming algorithm updates. Predictably, business owners and webmasters alike have been scrambling to devise cost-effective solutions for deploying mobile-friendly website versions. Often, they rely on Google’s Mobile-Friendly Test to diagnose each webpage on a case-by-case basis before deciding which pages to target for responsive or custom mobile design.
In and of itself, there’s nothing wrong with this strategy. But when we look into the grander scheme of what Google is pushing – a consistent experience across devices – it’s not hard to see why the Mobile-Friendly test itself is inadequate for devising a mobile strategy. At ClickGiant, we take advantage of the Mobile-Friendly test but strive to dig deeper when it comes to understanding what our clients users (and Google) really want in a mobile browsing experience.
The Limitations of Google’s Mobile-Friendly Analysis
True/False Orientation Provides Limited Data
With the Mobile-Friendly testing tool, users are returned either a “yes” or a “no” answer to the question “is this webpage mobile friendly?” The tool leaves very little room for interpretation or extrapolation. More specifically, “Yes! This page is mobile friendly” criteria provides no insights as to why Google has deemed the page favorable. Likewise, “No! This page is not mobile friendly” results contain no specifications as to why the page was scored that way. We’re missing real metrics that enable us to give Google what they’re asking for.
The Tools Focuses Only on Layout
A similar limitation of the Mobile-Friendly test is that it only tests for broad layout and user experience metrics. Pagespeed does not yet appear to be a core component of the Mobile-Friendly Testing tool, which can lead to some false hope when evaluating pages that are otherwise a mess from a user experience & page speed perspective. A “mobile-friendly” page as returned by the Mobile Friendly Testing Tool doesn’t necessarily test pages against Google’s more stringent mobile web guidelines.
Additional Mobile Audit Tools
Pagespeed Insights (mobile)
As we covered in our mod_pagespeed piece, the Pagespeed Insights tool is extremely useful for getting more granular data about where a site stands in relation to Google’s webmaster guidelines. When we run a test on a website using Pagespeed Insights, we pay special attention to the very clearly delineated “mobile” portion of that data. This is a core component of Google’s algorithm used to rank sites. Since a big part of what we do involves optimizing sites for search, we use the mobile Pagepeed score as our baseline in both performance and user experience testing.
In addition to incorporating the Pagespeed Insights mobile site test into your mobile site audits, there are myriad tools that pool data from multiple sources to provide a more comprehensive overview of mobile strengths and weaknesses. One popular tool is FeedtheBot, which tests web performance using several of Google’s APIs. FeedtheBot has entire tests dedicated to mobile that allow us to more comprehensively identify what’s going on behind the scenes and to enact a prescriptive plan to fix it.
Branding & Marketing Consideration Are a Compass for Us All
It’s very possible – common, even – for a website to pass Google’s mobile friendly test and tout all the best Pagespeed metrics without actually providing the best experience for a site’s user base. For example, a mobile-only site that does not align with branding and design standards of the desktop site can be confusing for visitors who are familiar with the original site and are visiting via phone or tablet for the first time. Likewise, a site that has unusable features resulting from a lack of thorough testing can cause frustrating for both users and developers.
Furthermore, a mobile site that contains a clean layout, loads fast and provides a consistent user experience might STILL not be enough to satisfy the goals of your campaign. If you’re running PPC ads and a large percentage of your users are arriving via mobile, your mobile site could suffer from lower conversion rates related to the placement of key call-to-actions and input items. That’s because most websites typically feature action buttons and forms that become less prominent on the website once it shifts to the mobile version. In other words, sites deemed otherwise outstanding from a website design & performance perspective are often only marginally effective when conversion goals aren’t at the forefront of the mobile audit discussion.
ClickGiant Offers Comprehensive Mobile Site Audits
At ClickGiant, we combine several tools and strategies that help business owners identify and fix and mobile website issues. And since we set our sights far beyond “Yes! This page is mobile friendly”, we’re able to create consistent experiences that are fast, usable and conversion-friendly. Contact us today for a thorough site review and to request a thorough plan for site optimization.