Google announced an update coming this April that could prove to be one of the most important changes to their algorithm in quite some time. While the specifics are not yet known (and, as with so many of their other algorithm updates, we may never know the full details), here is what Google has said so far:
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.
In a nutshell, this means when someone goes to search from their smartphone or tablet, responsive websites will rank higher than those not optimized for mobile devices.
Why This Matters
As you should already know, the higher you rank in a Google search, the better. Statistics show that the number of people browsing the web from a mobile device is now equivalent to—and in some studies surpassing—the number of people browsing from a desktop or laptop. This means that if your site is not mobile-compatible, you could be in for what some are labeling “Mobilegeddon,” The implications for your site traffic, and in turn your business, could be severe.
What Does That Mean For Your Website?
While mobile compatibility used to be a nice feature, it has now officially become a requirement. If you have invested in a mobile presence, whether it be a separate website or a responsive web design, you should be okay.
If you aren’t sure, Google has a handy test that you can execute to get a quick idea of where you stand. While this test is not comprehensive, it will give you an indication of how Google views your site and where you can make some quick fixes to improve your compatibility.
For those who are more adept at site management, there are additional resources in Webmaster Tools that can give you a deeper level of understanding in regards to your site’s performance in mobile settings. This is definitely worth perusing if you are concerned.
It’s also advisable to research your user metrics and analytics. What is the percentage of users who are viewing your content from mobile devices? How many of those users convert? What is their usage pattern? For example, do mobile users bounce off of your site at a higher rate than desktop users? This is a clear indicator that your mobile experience does not achieve the goals you have set for your website.
What Are Your Options?
Now is the time to consider redesigning your site to make it compatible or entertain other compatibility options. Research the various methodologies for becoming mobile compatible and decide on a pathway that works best for you. Because of the changing dynamics of web visitors, this change will become the standard the minute it is made active, so the sooner you upgrade, the better.
Create An Action Plan
Responsive website design can take time. If you choose to upgrade your site design, decide quickly, but progress with care. You may not make it in time for the April 21st deadline, but you can quickly recover your rankings if you have your new site architecture live shortly thereafter. However, don’t rush through the project and deploy a bad user experience as a result! Work with a qualified design team who can take your site experience to mobile platforms in a manner consistent with your brand and objectives.
It’s worth noting that responsive web design is more expensive and time consuming to produce than traditional web design and development. Quality designers and developers will guide you through your new site’s layout in mobile, tablet, and desktop views and then carefully code and test the new site in a variety of environments. This all takes time and effort to properly build and test.
For more information, please refer to Google’s official announcement. In addition, we have selected some helpful resources for you to research your options for enhancing your mobile compatibility:
- Going Mobile: Options For Mobile-Enabling Your Website
- Why Is Responsive Design Such A Big Deal?
- NPG’s Responsive Web Design Services
Existing NPG clients who are interested in discussing their specific options should contact their account manager for more details.