Going Mobile – Part 1
You Must Have a Mobile-Friendly Website
By John Rust
Google recently implemented a major update that will have an effect your website's position in search results. Google considered these statistics:
- Over 50% of Google's own search engine traffic is from mobile users – smart phones and tablets;
- 80 percent of adults now have a smartphone;
- Average time spent on a mobile device is 1.85 hours a day (over a half hour increase from 2012);
- Mobile activity now comprises of more than one-fifth of the e-commerce market.
And, about Google:
- Google is the world's largest mobile platform provider (Android);
- Google is the world's largest mobile search provider;
- Google has the largest mobile app store.
In other words, Google gets to make the calls on mobile.
In recognition of those facts, Google now ranks websites on how friendly the site is to mobile customers. They will mark sites as "Mobile Friendly" and given all else being equal will rank those sites ahead of others.
[Update May 15, 2015: Microsoft has announced that their search engine, Bing, will soon start doing the same.]
What does this mean to you?
This is excellent news if you already have a mobile-friendly website. The new algorithm presents an opportunity to gain an advantage over competitors who have not yet optimized their sites for mobile.
This is not great news for those who have not yet optimized their website for mobile devices. If your competitors are more mobile-friendly, then you will lose your search visibility.
Without a mobile-friendly website, your business might vanish from Google's search results on mobile devices. Eventually, your site may vanish from search listings for all devices.
What is "Mobile Friendly?"
While most websites can be viewed on a smartphone or tablet, your visitors' "experience" might be less than ideal. For instance, visitors may not see certain types of content, or will need to pinch, spread, scroll and swipe to see or read the content.
In addition, mobile devices are touch activated, not mouse-click activated. It is not easy for a user to navigate the website's links unless the site is truly mobile-friendly.
Google considers the following characteristics, and adjusts search ranking for reasons such as:
- Type that is too small to read
- Whether or not the fonts scale for easy reading on smaller screens
- Need to pinch or spread to see the content.
- Page visitors do not want to have to scroll to the side to read a news article or have to perpetually zoom in to read the text on the page.
- Whether the touch elements, such as links and buttons, are easy to use – ie, separated away from other touch elements.
- Content that mobile browsers can not display.
- Such as content displayed with "Flash" which tends to not play well in mobile browsers
- Links to a "Mobile" page having content not directly related to the linking page.
- If you have separate mobile URLs, you must redirect mobile users on each desktop URL to the appropriate mobile URL
- Avoidance of irrelevant cross-links. This is when users are linked to desktop-optimized pages from the mobile version of the site, and vice versa
- Slow mobile pages and load time
It is important to note that Google will determine mobile friendliness at the individual page level not site-wide. In "traditional" search (for desktops), Google considered an entire website when determining its rank.
Now, each individual page will be considered separately – meaning that one page might be designated mobile friendly, and another not. Google will look at them separately and promote the page that is optimized. They won't "penalize" an entire site based on a few pages aren't optimized.
You Must Catch Up First!
I began advising clients to begin implementing several major upgrades to their websites five years ago. Those upgrades have now become critical.
As noted in my article "Bigger, Faster, Smaller, Fresher," the aspects we had five years to improve upon were:
- Being technically up to date
- Speed – Everyone likes "fast"
- Here a block, there a block – Tables vs Blocks
- Big Wide Screens: Readability problems with Laptops, and Desktops
- Small Screens – Mobile and cell phone use is increasing
- Browser Safety – Spam and Security issues are driving up website complexity
- Fresh Content, Fresh Content, Fresh Content
- Video Content
All those are very important to Google, with a major emphasis on aspects that relate to small and touch screens - the mobile market.
Next, You Must "Mobilize"
It's safe to say that mobile-friendliness is no longer just "nice-to-have" for your business' website. As long as you rely on the internet to reach customers this is now a requirement.
First, catch up. Then make your website mobile friendly. Once that is done, you can get back to the basics:
addressing usability issues; strengthening your sales process; monitoring your visitor analytics; and building fresh content.
Your website might already be mobile-friendly, or nearly so. The "Catch Up" changes mentioned above got you pretty close. Google "likes" three different configurations for mobile sites:
- Separate mobile sites: Visitors using a smartphone are directed to a separate mobile URL (such as http://m.yourcompany.com) that is optimized with different, device-specific code and content.
- Dynamic serving: Your host's web server identifies each user's device and browser. It then sends that visitor appropriate code based on that information.
- Responsive design: Desktop content is adapted to appear nicely on a mobile device. This means page addresses remain the same and your visitor analytics reporting is easier. However, resizing and re-formatting the same content for various devices may not always deliver ideal results.
Your Best Solution?
The right choice for you depends on a variety of factors: your website content, your own technological capabilities, your budget/resources, your industry, your business goals, your conversion points, and your visitors' expectations all play a role in dictating which mobile configuration works best for your website.
Obviously, this article cannot cover all the technical or business considerations. Yes, there are compromises to consider that are not covered here.
I recommend having a discussion with a good technical Search Engine Optimization (SEO) consultant for advice on planning and implementation.
For most small businesses – building a responsive site is the best solution. Google actually recommends responsive site design. Responsive Web design has removed the need for alternate mobile versions of websites and gives you the ability to maintain a single website that automatically adjusts to the size screen that it is displayed upon.
Your website must now be "mobile-friendly."
Over half your visitors are now using a mobile, or handheld, device like a smartphone or tablet, and you need to provide them with an optimal user experience in order to keep their interest.
Your placement in search results for both Google and Bing will now depend greatly on being "mobile-friendly."
A responsive design may be the best approach for you. However, copying the same content from a big screen to a smaller one might not be effective, and must be planned carefully. Designing separate mobile versions of your website can boost conversion rates – but this will cost more to properly implement and maintain.
I hope the information above is of some help. If you have any more questions, let's get together and talk about them.
Read "Part 2" of this article for how to "Make Your Website Mobile-Friendly."
"Call Now to Arrange a Free Consultation"
Or click here to send me an E-mail, and I will call you. Let's get to know each other, and discuss some of your most pressing problems, during a brief, confidential, visit in your office. I will freely share my ideas with you, even though there is no charge for this meeting, and no obligation.