Although you might think they add value to a page, using plugins on mobile pages can actually lower your ranking. Here, we explain what plugins are and how they affect ranking.

What is a plugin?

A plugin is a piece of software code that enables a browser to process certain types of web content that it otherwise couldn’t. Plugins have to be installed or updated before they show up on a web page.

Common plugins include:

  • Adobe Acrobat Reader to open .pdf files
  • Java Virtual Machine to run Java Applets
  • Microsoft Silverlight to run rich media, databases, and interactive web pages
  • Adobe Flash Player to run YouTube videos and .swf animation films
  • Real Audio Player to listen to .ram files
  • Apple Quicktime to see 3d Virtual Reality schematics

Perhaps the most common plugin of all is Adobe Flash Player, without which a lot of streaming sites and news bulletins would not be viewable. However, flash doesn’t work well, or even at all on certain mobile browsers.

Do mobile devices support plugins?

A lot of mobile devices don’t support plugins, with plugins being the main reason for hanging pages, crashes and other issues in browsers that provide plugin support. It’s because of this that a lot of desktop browsers limit plugins. Internet Explorer runs without plugins in Windows UI mode, Chrome plans to remove support for a majority of plugins and Firefox prompts its users before running most plugins.

How plugins affect site ranking

One way Google decides whether a page is mobile friendly or not is by checking for plugins on your page. If your site has plugins Google deems it not mobile friendly and therefore lowers your ranking. To determine how mobile friendly your own pages are, try Google’s mobile friendly test.

Alternatives to plugins for mobile

The easiest way to ensure content isn’t reliant on plugins is to avoid using them altogether. A vast majority of content that used to require plugins can now be made with native web technology, including audio and video, graphics and presentations, network connections, local storage and file access. Making use of such features will ensure your rich content is accessible on all devices, whilst simultaneously not harming your ranking.


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