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How mobile-friendly is .nz?

22 Jun 15

If your website is not mobile-friendly, Google search results on a mobile device may not be your friend. 

Recently, Google began a change that affects how websites are delivered when searched from a mobile device. The impact of this change is that websites that are not considered ‘mobile-friendly’ will be given a lower priority than sites that are. This is important stuff, as evidenced in the somewhat alarmist 'Mobilegeddon' language associated with the change.

So, in practical terms, what is the current state of the New Zealand website landscape in relation to mobile friendliness?

As the registry for all .nz domain names, NZRS holds a unique position* in being able to evaluate the impact of Google search changes in the New Zealand context. We should also be clear that the NZRS website is not as mobile friendly as we would like and we have changes planned for later in the year to resolve this.

Top of mind for us was how many websites using .nz domain names would be impacted by this change, and to what extent this change could affect mobile search results for New Zealand content? 

Why should we care? There are a number of factors that affect where and how a website places in Serach Engine Results Pages (SERPs). Mobile friendliness is just a new and very important factor that has been added to the mix for searches conducted from mobile devices. If an organisation wishes to be found via mobile search, and most likely would given the rise of mobile device use, then this is important to factor into website design.

To find out, at the beginning of May 2015, we ran a test on a sample of 64,000 .nz domains (10% of our active ~ 640,000 names). 

There are two main flags in the results, worked meaning the test actually completed, and passed signalling the test scored high enough to pass the threshold. 

Before diving into the results, let's have a quick look at the mobile-friendly test to understand more about what mobile-friendly means from a Google context.

To help organisations establish if this change would affect them, Google provided the Mobile-Friendly Test. The test visits the site, fetches all the resources from the first page, and analyses it using a set of usability criteria established by Google:
•    ConfigureViewport: Has a Mobile Viewport been set?
•    UseLegibleFontSizes: Is the Text too small to read?
•    AvoidPlugins: Does use incompatible plugins
•    SizeContentToViewport: Is the Content wider than screen?
•    SizeTapTargetsAppropriately: Links too close together?

Based on answers to the questions above, the website is scored for its ‘mobile-friendliness’.  Scores over 80% are deemed to have passed which places quite a high threshold for websites to subsequently be ranked higher on mobile search.

Initial results
The initial results make sobering reading. 

Initial observation:
Of the domain names which responded with the test (48,159) a total of 60% failed. 
•    15,841 (24.75%) domains did not respond to the test indicating these names did not resolve to a website. There are names that may not resolve at all, be used for email only or suffering a temporal outage at the time of testing.
•    29,083 (45.44%) domains failed the test (this is any website including parking pages for domains). 
•    19,076 (29.80%) domains passed the test (this is any website including parking pages for domains).

Distribution of scores
As we were able to record the score calculated by Google, we can show the distribution of scores across the test results.  Whilst 40% of domains passed the test, only 10% passed with a full score of 100.   

There is a lot of work to be done to improve the mobile-friendliness of the .nz space.

Age of Domain Names
Does the age of a domain affect the results?  In short - no.  What is surprising is that over half of websites using a domain name that are less than 1 year old are not mobile friendly.  This begs the question are new websites still being launched that are not mobile friendly?  It certainly looks that way.

What can be done?
So what can website managers/developers do?
•    Initially, check your website with Google's Mobile-Friendly Test.   
•    If your site passes, there may be no further action required.
•    If your site fails the test, review the recommendations and consider making some changes. Talk to your website developer or hosting provider for more details.
•    If you want further information about how to show in mobile search results, Google has produced a great reference to get you started.  
* NZRS Ltd conduct regular zone and host scanning - more information can be found here:  

By David Morrison, NZRS

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