Google firing warnings to mobile-unfriendly webmasters

As if we needed any more evidence of just how crucial mobile-friendliness in a website has become, we only needed to read reports that have emerged in the last few days of Google sending notifications to the owners of websites that are less accessible for smartphone and tablet users. These warnings effectively tell the webmasters in question to shape up or accept the adverse consequences for their rankings.

These mass notifications, with the subject Fix mobile usability issues on…, inform the site owner in question that 100 per cent of the pages on their site have critical mobile usability errors, meaning that the pages will be “displayed and ranked appropriately for smartphone users.”

The notifications are being communicated via email and Google Webmaster Tools, and the message to webmasters is clear: whether you know this to be the case or not, your site is not mobile friendly, and you therefore can’t expect your site to rank well in Google searches performed via a mobile device.

However, it has been suggested that this development could be an indicator of something more momentous to come – a mobile ranking algorithm. After all, Google has already admitted that it is experimenting with one, and a Google mobile-friendly testing tool has even been launched, in addition to mobile usability reports in Google Webmaster Tools and indicators in the search engine’s results of those sites that are accessible for mobile users.

It’s all a far cry from the days of the mere penalisation of sites with bad mobile SEO in the mobile search results. Even sites that are knowingly mobile-unfriendly seem to be receiving the new notifications. It all points to something as significant as a mobile ranking algorithm in the wings, although Search Engine Land‘s Barry Schwartz admitted in a report on the matter that “we have not been able to get a confirmation from Google on this as of yet.”

Those who receive the latest warnings from Google are told of the number of pages of their site that “Google systems” have tested, followed by the statement that “The errors on these… pages severely affect how mobile users are able to experience your website.”

Recipients are then presented with a series of courses of action for how they can “fix this now”, including finding problematic pages, learning about mobile-friendly design and fixing mobile usability issues on their site. There are also links to further information for those “Not sure how to proceed”.

It all goes to show that if there was ever going to be a time when you needed to get your own online presence shipshape for mobile, that time is surely now.