There’s no “mobilegeddon” taking place on Bing, but Microsoft did announce today that it’s taking steps to improve the search rankings for mobile-friendly websites. The changes follow a similar move by Google which last month rolled out a change to its ranking algorithm which penalized sites that aren’t easily usable from mobile devices. The update was significant enough that some began referring to the shift as the “mobilepocalyse” or “mobilegeddon,” given the impact it would have on mobile search results.
The mobile-friendly update also comes at a time when the web search business finds itself at a crossroads. More users are accessing content in native mobile apps, something that Facebook in particular has capitalized on. Google also confirmed this month something that many have suspected for some time: that more Google searches are now taking place on mobile devices than on computers, in 10 countries including the U.S. and Japan.
That’s why it makes sense that Google would need to optimize its search engine for mobile users. After all, if people use their browsers less on mobile devices than on the desktop web, and therefore do fewer Google searches, that ultimately affects Google’s bottom line with regard to its ads business.
However, Bing has decided to take less drastic measures compared to Google when it comes to adjusting its ranking algorithms to factor in a site’s mobile friendliness.
In addition to labeling select search results as “mobile-friendly,” which it began to do just recently, the search service will also now improve the rankings for mobile-friendly webpages.
But there’s a big difference between Bing’s approach and Google’s: Google is actually penalizing webpages that aren’t mobile-friendly, meaning those where the text isn’t easily readable without tapping and zooming, or those where tap targets need to be spaced more appropriately, as well as those where the page features unplayable content or horizontal scrolling.
Bing, meanwhile, says that relevant results, even when they’re not mobile-optimized, won’t get shoved down in search results.
As the company explains today in a blog post:
This means that for mobile searches on Bing, you can always expect to see the most relevant results for a search query ranked higher, even if some of them are not mobile-friendly. While the changes will improve ranking for mobile-friendly pages, webpages that are highly relevant to the given query that are not yet mobile-friendly will not get penalized. This is a fine balance and getting it right took a few iterations, but we believe we are now close.
Also like Google, Bing is offering webmasters tools that will help them analyze their page’s mobile-friendliness ahead of the update, so they’ll know what areas of their site need to be fixed. The tool will arrive in a few weeks.
The requirements for being considered a mobile-optimized site by Bing aren’t too different from Google’s. Sites will need to be easily navigable by touch, readable within zooming and scrolling horizontally, and compatible with mobile devices (e.g. no Flash). Bing is also considering factors like whether or not the site has pop-ups among other things.
Bing didn’t say when the ranking changes will take place, only that they’re due to arrive in the “coming months.”