Bing will follow Google's lead and begin giving mobile-friendly websites a boost in search results delivered to smartphones and other mobile devices. It's an important change that could have a dramatic impact on certain websites' traffic; it could mean losing visitors if a website isn't easy to use while mobile. But it also means that people visiting Bing — something that increasingly, and likely in some cases predominantly, occurs on mobile — will ultimately have a better experience. If they keep ending up at websites that they can't use, they're going to find another way to get what they're looking for. With this change, Bing's results should be more useful.
Highly relevant results won't be penalized, even if they aren't mobile friendly
Google began giving mobile-friendly sites a bump last month. Like Google, Bing isn't going overboard with favoring mobile sites: if a website is the best result, it's probably still going to end up on top, even if it isn't designed for mobile. "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," Bing's Shyam Jayasankar writes in a blog post. Jayasankar calls achieving this a "fine balance," writing that the search engine believes it's close to meeting that goal. Some factors that Bing considers to not be mobile friendly include small buttons and links, text that can't be read, the need to scroll horizontally, and plugins that don't work on the device being used.
Bing expects to begin rolling out its search ranking changes "in the coming months." In part, it sounds as though that delay is to allow it to keep working on how this will alter search results; but it's also likely about giving site owners time to make sure that they won't be penalized. Search engines can drive a significant amount of traffic to a website, and major ranking changes like this are something that sites will listen to. Of course, with Google already implementing this change, the websites that care most are probably already making the necessary changes.