Google has officially announced that from April 21 they will be introducing changes to the way they rank websites for mobile search. What this means for website owners is that if your site isn’t mobile friendly (responsive or a mobile version) then you are going to lose ground in the SERPs to your mobile-savvy competitors.
“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. Consequently, users will find it easier to get relevant, high quality search results that are optimized for their devices.”
See the official post from Google Webmasters
What is “Mobile Friendly”?
A mobile friendly website is something that can be viewed easily on mobile devices like smartphones and tablets. Their smaller screen size and touch screen can make using a regular website difficult to navigate as users have to zoom in and pan around to see your site and drop-down menus can become a total nightmare.
Here is another great Google article on why mobile usability is important.
There are two main options available to make your website mobile friendly:
A responsive site uses stylesheets to scale your design to fit the user’s screen. Because its designed to fit every device perfectly, users don’t have to zoom in, scroll left or right and the navigation is designed in a way that is easy to use with a touch screen.
Since this method works for all devices and doesn’t require a separate set of pages or another domain, it means a better result for the end user and less work for you.
An older method that is still used to some degree is to create a mobile version of your site. When browsing from a phone or tablet, users will be redirected to a separate, mobile-specific domain; typically in the form of m.website.com.au.
While this does give the user a site that’s easy to navigation on their mobile device, it also means you have two sites to maintain. More importantly, it can be incredibly frustrating for mobile users if they follow a link to your desktop site, looking for a particular post or product as they will typically be redirected to the home page of your mobile version instead.
For more information on the benefits of a responsive design, take a look at our blog post – Why Responsive Design is Better Than a Mobile Version.
Find Out How Friendly Your Current Site Is
Google does offer a simple Mobile-Friendly Test where you simply paste your URL in, hit Analyze and wait for the result.
This tool will assess a number of elements on the page you submitted and give you suggestions on what you can do to improve. Note that it doesn’t look at your entire site though, just the page you entered.
KDM’s site gets a clean bill of health, we’re so friendly!
For a more detailed look at your site, log into Google Search Console and navigate to Search Traffic > Mobile Usability for your site to see a list of any errors that you should consider fixing.
See How Much Mobile Traffic You Have to Lose
Some industries will rely heavily on mobile traffic (think restaurants, car hire, flights, accommodation) but is this change really important to your business?
To see how many mobile users are currently finding your website through the SERPs, Google Anayltics has the answer. When logged in and looking at your website, navigate to Audience > Mobile > Overview. From here, click the “secondary dimension” drop-down and select Acquisition > Medium.
This view will present you with a table of your traffic, listed by acquisition medium; essentially, how this traffic found your website and what type of device they were using. The figure that you’re looking for here is Mobile > Organic. What this number and percentage really represent is the amount of traffic you stand to lose if your site is not mobile friendly by April 21.
Are you ok with losing this many visits? If not, it might be time to find a developer and get a price on a responsive design, its only 3 weeks away!
Do you think these changes are for the best? Leave your thoughts in the comments below!