On April 21, if you’re website isn’t considered to be mobile friendly by Google you will likely see a good portion of your traffic disappear.
Back in November of last year, Google confirmed that it was looking at usability on mobile devices as an additional search ranking factor. Over the following several weeks, that update was rolled out and when someone searched on a mobile device they could see a label specifying that a site was “Mobile-friendly”. Apparently this experiment proved to be beneficial to users as Google has now expanded this into a full blown algorithm change that will be impacting mobile search results going forward.
So, why should you care about this? Well . . . how about taking a quick look at these statistics:
- Google has predicted that mobile searches will overtake desktop searches sometime this year.
- 40% of mobile searches are related to buying local products and services.
- 70% of smartphone users who conduct a local search contact that business within one hour.
The bottom line is that if you’re a local business, your customers and clients are searching for you and your products or services using a mobile device at least as often (if not more often) than they are on a desktop computer. And it doesn’t matter what industry you’re in, mobile search is becoming the norm. That’s why Crush My Market focuses so much on our mobile marketing efforts.
How can you tell if your site is “mobile friendly”. Fortunately, Google has made that easy. Just head on over to their mobile friendly testing tool and find out for yourself. Be sure to not only check your home page but your most important inner pages as well. Google has confirmed that this update will be on a page by page basis so just because one page passes the test doesn’t necessarily mean that all pages will pass.
If the test says your site is optimized for mobile search, than at the very least you don’t likely need to worry about being penalized in this update. That doesn’t necessarily mean that your site is designed for mobile conversions as well as it should be, but at least Google won’t be slapping you with a penalty.
Should your site be in need of a bit of fixing up, Google has offered a few suggestions noted below.
One of the easiest things you can do for a good mobile experience is to have a responsive website. Responsive web design is where the same website is used for all devices (desktops, smartphones, tablets, etc.) but the design of the site is altered via CSS to ensure it looks good and behaves correctly regardless of on which device the site is viewed.
Another option, which is both more expense and more complex than building a responsive website, is building an entirely different site for mobile devices. The advantage of this method is that you can completely fine tune what your mobile visitor sees and this will likely result in the most optimum experience. But it requires a much larger investment of time and money to not only setup each separate site but to manage and maintain them. For that reason, we don’t normally recommend this approach for local businesses.
There are a few common problems that might either hinder your efforts to otherwise have a mobile optimized site, or that will cause you to fail Google’s tests even when your site is in fact offering a great mobile experience. These are supposed to be identified in the mobile friend test referenced above but we’ve seen cases where that test did not correctly identify the issue.
Another issue is using content like Flash that cannot be viewed on many mobile devices. And we’re not just talking about those crazy Flash introductions that were (horribly) popular a few years ago. A very common use of Flash was embedded video on websites. It wasn’t until earlier this year that YouTube finally completely dumped Flash in favor of HTML5. So it’s quite possible that sites even a couple of years old could have Flash-embedded videos that are unplayable on mobile devices and that will therefore fail the mobile readiness test.
And the last big issue we’ll address here (there are other issues but not quite as important to typical local businesses) is page speed. For awhile now, Google has penalized sites (and specifically pages on those sites) that take too long to load. If someone gets to a page after a search on Google, and it takes more than a couple of seconds to load, they will quickly bounce back and try another site. So page speed is crucial. And even if you have a fast site for desktop users, sites that are heavy with images and video and other potentially large elements could load much slower on a mobile device.
If you need help making sure your site is prepared for the April 21st mobile friendly algorithm change, let us know and we’ll take care of everything for you.