There is no doubt that a responsive, mobile-friendly website is absolutely necessary today. Mobile users in the U.S.A. are approaching 50% of total internet users. But does it actually affect your search engine rankings to not have a mobile ready site?
The only way that mobile experience currently affects your search rankings is if the user gets errors on the mobile site. Google also penalizes web sites that redirect users to their home page from other pages when browsing on mobile. But Google does not currently have mobile UX set as a ranking signal.
Google has hinted, however, that mobile user experience could become another ranking signal. A Google official sent this statement to Barry Schwartz at Search Engine Land:
“Mobile-friendly websites provide a much better user experience for the mobile users. According to our studies, 61% of users are unlikely to return to a mobile site that they had trouble accessing from their phone. That includes sites that use fonts which are illegible on mobile, or sites where users have to zoom in or pan around excessively. Mobile is a very important area; the mobile device penetration is over 50% in the USA and most users use their device for browsing websites.”
Does that sound like Google is thinking about the mobile experience? I think so. Google wants to give searchers the best experience possible. If half of those searchers on mobile devices, then the search engine giant will incorporate mobile experience into its complicated algorithm.
In May, Google announced it could see full pages, rendered as completely as they are for users. If Googlebots can read a bad mobile site in the same way that a user sees a mobile site, then what is stopping Google from penalizing sites that give users a bad experience? Mobile UX as a ranking signal could be many months away, but this is a strong indicator that Google considers it be important.