Searchmetrics Releases its First Study of Google.com Mobile Ranking Factors

Oct 06, 2015


BEST PRACTICES SERIES

New research confirms, according to Searchmetrics, that online marketers and website owners need to follow a separate strategy to help their pages rank higher in mobile phone searches on Google. It is essential to pay particular attention to the specific user experience and technical requirements for mobile visitors, while ensuring the underlying content on pages continues to be relevant and comprehensive.

The findings come from the Searchmetrics Mobile Ranking Factors US 2015 study, an analysis of the top 30 mobile phone search results for 10,000 relevant keywords on Google.com. Building on Searchmetrics' annual ranking factors study for desktop search, this is the company's first comprehensive study of ranking factors for U.S. mobile search results.

The smaller screen size and touch-based navigation on mobile phones means marketers need to pay specific attention to the mobile user experience to help their pages rank higher. This is why 22% off pages ranking in the top 30 mobile search results use responsive design that automatically adjust the format to suit a mobile, tablet, or desktop. Many also use dedicated mobile sites.

In high-ranking mobile search results, the average font size above the fold is significantly larger than on high-ranking desktop results. Yet when you scroll down, the fonts on mobile phone pages are found to be smaller than on desktop pages. The above the fold text has to be bigger because it often includes clickable navigation links that let visitors click through to different parts of the site.     

High-ranking mobile pages generally have fewer interactive elements such as menus and buttons as well as images. In fact, 72% of mobile pages in the top 30 search results contain at least one unordered list (e.g. bullet points) to help structure information (around a quarter more than in desktop search results). However, the lists on mobile pages are usually much shorter, with fewer individual points.

The average mobile page file size was found to be around 25% smaller, allowing faster load times. Only 5% of mobile pages make use of flash design (mostly used for animation and video), which is not widely supported by mobile devices, compared with 14% of desktop pages. 

Holistic and relevant content remains one of the most important factors for high Google rankings in both desktop and mobile searches according to the analysis. It is paramount that both mobile and desktop pages cover topics comprehensively. For example analysis of the words in high ranking pages in both desktop and mobile searches indicates that a high percentage (above 70%) contain important "proof terms" strongly related to the search topic, while around half also include slightly more distant "relevant  terms."

The study found variations between mobile and desktop content in some areas. High-ranking content on mobile pages tends to be shorter on average (867 words) than on desktop (1285 words). It also includes significantly fewer internal links to related content on the same site (probably because Google advises against placing links too close to each other on mobile pages).

(searchmetrics.com/knowledge-base/mobile-ranking-factors/)