Coming to websites and Googlers everywhere April 21, 2015: Google made a really big update to improve mobile-friendly search results for users on the go. In the name of making Google more efficient for users on their smartphones, Google will only allow websites that are mobile-friendly to be included in their search results for people Googling from their phones. This article gives you the big picture of what this means for your business. For another easy breakdown of what's happening, see this article.
For action steps you can take now, watch this webinar with Tin Shingle co-founders Katie Hellmuth Martin and Sabina Hitchen.
WHAT IS MOBILE-FRIENDLY?
In this case, mobile-friendly is people surfing the web from their smartphones, like an iPhone or Android. The change Google is making does not impact tablets at this time, since Google views tablets as a step away from the desktop experience in that tablets have larger screens. Says Google: "We consider tablets as devices in their own class, so when we speak of mobile devices, we generally do not include tablets in the definition. Tablets tend to have larger screens, which means that, unless you offer tablet-optimized content, you can assume that users expect to see your site as it would look on a desktop browser rather than on a smartphone browser."
However, I'd still make sure your website design is very design friendly for a tablet to stay ahead of any future changes.
HOW DO I KNOW IF I HAVE A MOBILE-FRIENDLY WEBSITE?
Normally, you might think that if you can see your website on a mobile phone, then it's mobile-friendly. That's not good enough anymore. There are two ways you can check if your website is mobile-friendly:
- Test it using Google's Mobile-Friendly Testing Tool. It's actually super friendly and easy to use.
- Do a search right now on your phone for something you know your website ranks well for. Do you see a "Mobile-Friendly" label in front of it? It would look like this:
For the purposes of Google’s big update, your site must meet certain visual requirements that make it easy for a user of your website to read and navigate your pages. Google lists some of them here, but in short, Google looks at the following:
- Small font size.
- Touch elements too close, with links far enough apart so that the correct link can be easiliy tapped.
- A defined viewing area (aka a "viewport") that adjusts to a user's screen. Aka - doesn't require the user to pinch zoom in on your website.
- Sizes content to the screen so users don't have to scroll horizontally or zoom.
- Flash videos.
- The right kind of URLs.
MY MOBILE TRAFFIC IS LOW ANYWAY - SO WHY DO I CARE?
Your website traffic from mobile devices is probably low because the person can’t get to your website. And after Google releases this update, your website won’t even be an option when that person is typing or speaking search questions into their phones while on the go.
NEWLY BUILT WEBSITES ARE MOST LIKELY OK
The trend in using DIY platforms like Shopify, Wix and SquareSpace has been on the rise for years. Several new websites from businesses at the local level and service sectors use these template based websites that come with mobile friendly themes and responsive design. If this is you, then you don't have much to worry about.
If you have an older website built on a content management system that is out of date, like ZenCart, you will want to move your website to a more modern platform. And yes, that includes making it from scratch (but the process will probably be much simpler now!) If you hired a programmer to custom build your website on a big CMS like WordPress, Drupal, Joomla and others, you may be looking at higher costs.
WHAT THIS MEANS FOR YOUR BUSINESS
If your website is already mobile-friendly, you may see a jump in traffic because websites that are not mobile friendly will disappear from the list of search results. If your website is not mobile friendly, this is a bummer for you. Take a look at these search results for swimming lessons in a local area. The top ranking websites are not mobile-friendly, but the blog with the swimming lessons guide is. After April 21st, that blog will most likely move to the top position.
As Seymour says: “The downside is simple: you will ultimately lose traffic if your site isn’t mobile-friendly. However, on the flip side, in addition to higher search engine rankings, sites that are mobile-friendly may also see a higher conversion rate for mobile visitors.”
TAKE ACTION NOW
We recorded a TuneUp webinar specifically for Google's update and what changes you can make at your website now. Our Special Guest expert is Brandon Seymour of Beymour Consulting who will take you through this update. Click here for full webinar details.
PS: Do you love the photo used in this article? We do to! We found it in CreativeMarket.com from Victor Hanakek.