Back in December, we published an article called “Another Google Game-Changer: How Going Mobile Friendly Will Boost Your Search Visibility” that addressed the new “mobile friendly” designation that the search engine was adding to websites that had been optimized for mobile devices.
At the time, Google said that they saw “these labels as a first step in helping mobile users to have a better mobile web experience.” They went on to say, “we are also experimenting with using the mobile-friendly criteria as a ranking signal.” Many people speculated that it would only be a matter of time before Google started rewarding sites that were mobile friendly, and thereby penalizing those that were not. That day has come.
In a recent announcement, Google clarified their intentions for this mobile friendly label, stating that “starting April 21, we will be expanding our use of mobile-friendliness as a ranking signal. This change will affect mobile searches in all languages worldwide and will have a significant impact in our search results.”
If your site is not mobile friendly, Google has been quite clear in the fact that that site will no longer be given the same consideration that sites that are responsive and mobile friendly will be given. If you haven’t yet made multi-device support a priority on your website, now is the time to do so!
Creating mobile friendly websites that are built with a responsive approach is not a new idea. The article that introduced this term to the industry was published in 2010 and it has been a best practice for years with Google recommending it as their preferred solution for multi-device support for quite some time. Still, even though responsive web design has been an important part of the Web industry for a while, there are many companies that have not yet implemented these best practices on their own site. If you are one of the companies that has thus far eschewed this approach to multi-device support, rest assured that you are in prestigious company.
A recent article by TechCrunch found that 44% of websites for Fortune 500 companies failed when using the Google PageSpeed Insights API. This tool shows if a site is, indeed, mobile friendly. The findings of this report show that the failure to go responsive is not always due to financial reasons. The prestigious companies on the Fortune 500 list can certainly afford to redesign their websites to add a mobile-friendly experience. So why haven’t they done so then? Oftentimes, when a company fails to go responsive and create a site with an optimized experience for all screens and devices, it is because they do not fully understand the importance or benefits of doing so.
Google’s changes to their algorithm show that they expect more from websites and the experience they deliver to mobile devices. This makes sense, because web users as a whole have begun to expect more from mobile websites.
A short time ago, Google conducted a survey of website users and their opinions on the mobile web experience. They found that “72 percent of mobile users say it’s important to them that websites are mobile-friendly, yet 96 percent have visited a site that doesn’t work well on their device.”
The survey, and resulting report, went on to state that “users are five times more likely to abandon the task they are trying to complete if the site isn’t optimized for mobile use, with 79 percent saying they will go back to search and try to find another site to meet their needs.”
As these numbers show, the expectations for mobile websites are rising and the patience to deal with non-mobile friendly sites is greatly diminishing. Because of this, the “do nothing” approach to multi-device support is simply no longer an option.
The “do nothing” approach
The “do nothing” approach to mobile web support is pretty easy to accomplish, because, as the name suggests, you do nothing to your website and allow a layout that was intended for large screen, desktop monitors to display on all devices and screen sizes – mobile included. Before the rise in popularity of mobile devices, this is how all websites were built. As such, when people first began using those mobile devices to access websites, they accepted the fact that sites were difficult to use on those devices. They had to “pinch and zoom” to read content or tap links that were meant to be clicked with a mouse, not touched with a finger. Once responsive design took hold, however, and as more and more sites integrated this approach and improved their mobile experience, expectations from customers were raised.
In short order, the “do nothing” approach went from an unfortunate, yet acceptable, solution to a sign that your site was behind the times. Now, with Google’s changes to their search algorithm and their clear stance that the “do nothing” approach is no longer acceptable, this approach will not only show you are behind, it will also hurt your site’s overall SEO. If you have not yet made your site mobile friendly, and you are not planning to do so now, expect that your site will fall further and further behind the times and lower and lower in Google’s search engine rankings.
The case for mobile-friendly
Google’s algorithm changes are the final piece that many companies may have needed to finally take the steps to make their site mobile friendly – but maintaining quality rankings is not the only reason to use this approach. There are a number of benefits to going responsive on your website, including:
Customer service – since customers expect a website that works well on all devices, from desktops to tablets to phones and beyond, by delivering a quality experience on all these devices, you present a better overall customer service experience
Business development / customer retention – as the Google report shows, customers who visit a site on a mobile device and find it not optimized for that device are likely to leave the site and seek out an alternative for the products or services the need. This is lost business for you! A site that works well on all devices ensures that the traffic you get is the traffic you keep!
Content consistency – with a responsive website, you have 1 website to maintain and manage, as opposed to separate sites for mobile versus desktop users. That one site will dynamically reflow its layout based on a user’s screen size. This means that while the look of the site may adjust for different users, the content will remain the same, ensuring that the right message is always delivered regardless of the device being used to access the website
Expect search engine rankings to change dramatically after April 21st as Google begins using mobile friendless as ranking criteria. If you are not ready for this change, speak to your web or marketing team immediately and get the ball rolling on plans that will bring mobile support to your website and have your business ready for the increasing mobile-centric future of the Web.Jeremy Girard