Google caused quite a stir late last month when it altered its search engine algorithm to favor mobile-friendly sites on smartphones. Considering that mobile devices currently make up the bulk of Google’s search traffic, this move was inevitable.
The move makes sense, as sites that offer an alternate mobile layout or a dynamic layout that automatically adjusts based on screen size is preferable for smartphones. So it should come as no surprise that Microsoft has now thrown its hat in the ring by making “significant investments towards understanding the mobile friendliness of web pages.”
Microsoft started off this “investment” by tagging Bing search results that are “Mobile-friendly.” But now, Microsoft is preparing to take the next step of ranking search results based on their how mobile-friendly they are to smartphone displays — just like Google. But while Microsoft will give a boost to mobile-friendly sites, that doesn’t mean that it will completely turn its back on relevant results that just so happen to be desktop-optimized.
“This is a fine balance and getting it right took a few iterations, but we believe we are now close,” said Shyam Jayasankar, a member of the Bing Mobile Relevance Team.
Also taking a page from Google’s playbook, Microsoft will make a tool available to “help webmasters find and fix areas of their site that suffer from mobile friendliness issues.” The tool will identify areas of concern including Navigation, Readability, Scrolling, and Compatibility.
“All the factors above will need to be met for a webpage to be considered mobile-friendly by our classification algorithm,” added Jayasankar. “There are more factors that we are considering along the lines of mobile friendliness, like the friction that pop-ups sometimes create in navigating to the core content of the page.”
Bing’s mobile-friendly search rankings will kick into gear “in the coming months,” so at least Microsoft is giving webmasters some time to get their affairs in order. But considering that Google has already flipped the switch, and that its commands a significantly larger share of the search market than Bing, chances are that most sites have already implemented these changes ore are close to completion.