At the end of February, Google made an announcement that is going to have an enormous impact on search results. Beginning April 21st, websites that are not mobile friendly will be taking a big hit in mobile search results. This means that if your website is not optimized for mobile devices like smart phones and tablets, your site will be dropping out of the search results of users who are searching using those devices.
Why is Google doing this?
The web is simply not the same place it was even two or three years ago. The explosion of smart phones and tablets means that more and more people are spending a large percentage of their Internet time on these smaller, handheld devices. According to a recent survey of Internet use, the percentage of web use taking place on mobile devices went up from 14% in 2013 to 25% in 2014, and there is absolutely no sign of this growth slowing down. With a quarter of all searches happening on mobile, Google wants to make sure that they are delivering results that work well on those devices.
The problem is that for many years, websites were designed in a way that simply does not work well on a mobile device. A website that is optimized to look great on a large desktop monitor and work well with a mouse and keyboard is significantly less functional on a small phone with a touch screen. When a mobile user is searching for something and lands on a web page that is not optimized for mobile, it can be a frustrating experience, and it makes people rely less on Google. Google obviously wants people to continue using their service, so they are committing to providing more relevant, better optimized websites to mobile users.
Why does this matter?
This change is going to have a huge impact on mobile search results, and with mobile making up a larger and larger percentage of total searches, it could turn out to be one of the biggest, most important changes Google has made in years. In the past, large updates to Google’s algorithm (like the Penguin and Panda updates) have shaken up the search results to a huge degree, and websites that did not adapt to the changes saw their traffic plummet.
This update will be even more important for small businesses, because while 25% of total web usage is now happening on mobile, that percentage is much higher when we are talking about people searching for a product or service. More and more, people are searching for services at the moment that they need them with whatever device they have at hand, which usually means the smart phone in their pocket. As a result, many of these websites are seeing as much as 50% of their traffic coming from mobile. If you own a business, you definitely want your website showing up in mobile search results.
What should I do?
If your website is already optimized for mobile, then you don’t need to do anything to prepare for this update. You are doing what Google wants you to do, and you should either see your search ranking stay about the same or go up. If your site is not mobile-friendly, however, you have some work to do.
There are two main ways that webmasters generally optimize their websites for mobile:
- Dedicated mobile site: For years, this was the most commonly used solution to the problem of mobile web browsing. This involves building a separate website that is optimized for mobile that mobile users are automatically redirected to when they visit the main website. The advantage of this method is that you can have a website that is highly optimized for desktop and one that is highly optimized for mobile use. The drawback is that it requires building an entirely separate website for mobile users, which can be quite expensive.
- Responsive design: Responsive sites are designed from the ground up to look great on all devices. This is done by allowing the site to automatically resize and move its features around in order to fit the screen on which it is being displayed. This has become the preferred method in the past year or two because it easily accommodates the wide range of differently shaped screens that are now on the market.
The bottom line is that whatever you choose to do, your site needs to be mobile friendly, if it isn’t already. Starting on April 21st, sites that aren’t optimized for mobile will begin to see their search ranking drop dramatically. One solution is to upgrade your website to one of LinkNow Media’s new responsive designs. We have a wide variety of website designs available that work and look fantastic on any possible device your customers may be using to visit your site. If it has been a few years since you purchased your site, you’re likely due for an upgrade anyway.
But whatever you decide to do, don’t wait too long! April 21st is coming up soon, and you don’t want to be left behind once Google changes their algorithm. If you have questions or concerns about how your website will handle Google’s update, feel free to get in touch with us, and we will make sure that your site is ready to go. The web is waiting for you!