At a recent search marketing expo, Google engineer Gary Illyes spoke extensively about user experience, saying that webmasters should be focusing more attention in this area. But why the stress on user experience? Well it seems that Google may use mobile user experience as a part of its ranking algorithm.

Google Webmaster Tools Fetch and Render

Google Webmaster Tools added a fetch and render by device function earlier this year that allows you to see a visual representation of what Googlebot sees when it crawls your site. This is a great feature for finding any errors on your site and seeing what parts of the site the bot was unable to access. This new feature also allows you to view the site by device type – desktop computer, tablet or smartphone.

Google Using Mobile UX in Ranking Algorithm

Google’s constant assertion is that they’re trying to make the internet a better place for people to interact and find information. Using this user experience data as a ranking signal will force webmasters to ensure that their sites are more user friendly. If they don’t, they won’t be as easily found on Google.

What Google Looks For

With the fetch and render, Google can see a lot of information about your site. They know how big the font will appear on different pages, how easy it is to scroll through the site, if the user needs to zoom or pan in order to access information, whether the buttons are large enough to click on (without clicking three others at the same time!) and if the interface is easy to understand and navigate.

All of these factors will probably end up being aspects that affect your site’s ranking.

Why is Mobile User Experience Important?

This will be highly beneficial, especially in South Africa and Africa where the rate of mobile penetration is a huge 70%. The vast majority of South Africans’ only way to access the internet is through their mobile devices, so forcing sites to be more user friendly on mobile will make the internet a much better place for millions of South Africans and Africans.

Google has also stated that, according to their studies, a huge 61% of users are unlikely to return to a website that was difficult to use or access from their phones.

When Will Mobile UX Matter?

Well right now it hasn’t been included in the ranking algorithm, and there’s no indication of when it will happen unfortunately. However if you’re making websites, you should absolutely be considering mobile user experience with every site.

Use the new Fetch and Render by device in Webmaster Tools to assess your sites as they are now and start making changes. Even if it weren’t a ranking factor, it’s still important for mobile sites to function properly, especially in South Africa.