It’s never been more important to have a high quality website that is responsive, loads fast, and has great user experience. In the past, you could rank high in search engines with a poorly made site if you had tons of links pointing to it, but I think that is changing and some of the recent initiatives that Google is launching is proof of that.

Let’s take a look at a couple ways that Google is beginning to gauge how well made a website is, then I’ll take a peek in to the future to speculate on where we are heading.

Mobile

In June, 2012, Google said that responsive design is their recommended configuration for mobile.

Sites that use responsive web design, i.e. sites that serve all devices on the same set of URLs, with each URL serving the same HTML to all devices and using just CSS to change how the page is rendered on the device. This is Google’s recommended configuration. – Google Webmaster Blog

Then in November, 2014 Google launched the mobile-friendly label for mobile searches.

Mobile-friendly label
Mobile-friendly label

At the time, this was nothing more than a label, a way to tell searches if a website was mobile friendly before clicking on the link.

5 months after introducing the mobile label, Google will be officially using the mobile user experience as a ranking factor.

Google said that on April 21, 2015, Google’s mobile ranking factors will not only label your site as mobile-friendly, but will also use that to determine if your site should rank higher in the search results. Google said this algorithmic change will have a “significant impact” in the mobile search results, impacting all languages worldwide. – Search Engine Land

Learn about mobile-friendly websites from Google.

Page Speed

Google made site speed a ranking factor in April, 2010.

Faster sites create happy users and we’ve seen in our internal studies that when a site responds slowly, visitors spend less time there. But faster sites don’t just improve user experience; recent data shows that improving site speed also reduces operating costs. Like us, our users place a lot of value in speed — that’s why we’ve decided to take site speed into account in our search rankings. – Google Webmaster Blog

Google goes on to say that this only impacts less than 1% of searches.

Then in February, 2015 Google started testing a SLOW label in mobile search results.

SLOW tag
via K Neeraj Kayastha

There’s little explanation from Google on how this label is being tested and what the plans for full rollout might be. Based on the small amount of current information, all we know is that it appears to be visible to some, but not all, mobile Android users. It may also only currently be applied to Google properties. – Web Performance Today

In the future

If your site is slow and not mobile friendly, you’re not doing well in user experience and you may find yourself falling behind in search engines.

I think that Google is going to get more aggressive with how they gauge the quality level of a website. It’s in their best interest to not only display the most relevant content but to also ensure that they serve up sites with a great user experience.

Today Google is testing a SLOW label, tomorrow I think they will implement more aggressive measures to factor in speed in their rankings.

This means that web designers and developers are on the front lines of SEO for their clients.

In reality, this has always been the case, check out this article from 2005 that explains the relationship between accessible content and SEO.