Clock ticking on Google mobile-device mandate
Fans of the Denver Broncos are said to travel well. In other words, Broncomaniacs are likely to show up in droves at visiting NFL stadiums.
Does traveling well impact the outcome of a sporting event? Tough to say but it seems to reason that fans of any sports team who show up in large numbers at away games have a way of neutralizing the so-called home field advantage of their opposition.
How about your company website? In today’s digital marketing world, does your site travel well? When was the last time you checked it out on an iPad or another mobile device? Does traveling well digitally matter in the business world?
At Digital Assets, we think so. Too often business managers believe that if their website looks fine from their office PC, it must look fine to everyone else who stumbles upon it. And while most would agree that it’s important for a business website to work on as many devices and screen sizes as possible, they seldom invest the time to check it on mobile devices.
Why does this matter? If your business website does not scale to different screen sizes on different devices, or your phone number or “contact us” button is not easily found, your prospects will move on. Within a split-second, a potential buyer can navigate to your competitor’s site. The user experience, after all, should be at the center of everything we do. Google has said this since the beginning.
There is a growing body of evidence indicating a significant proportion of search traffic on Google and Bing now comes from mobile devices. This past November, in fact, saw mobile traffic surpass desktop traffic for Google search. At Bing, the percentage of mobile is still smaller (33 percent of visits against 67 percent from desktop) and more apt to fluctuate on a month-to-month basis. Although consumers may not yet be using their smart phones and tablets to make purchases at the same rate they buy from their PCs and laptops, they are definitely using them to do their homework on products before buying.
Consumer Friendly: Beyond Just Looking Good
Further underscoring the gravity of the mobile website issue, last month Google announced on its webmasters blog that it will implement an algorithm change that rewards businesses with mobile-friendly sites. If your site fails the Google mobile-friendliness test as of April 21st, you may lose visibility is search results conducted on mobile devices. Because there are not separate indexing protocols (yet) for mobile and desktop searches, SEO gurus are concerned that “mobile-unfriendly” may mean penalties at the desktop.
For years, Matt Cutts, Google’s head of webspam, has foreshadowed this change. Cutts has repeatedly commented that companies need to prepare for mobile, either through a responsive design or a separate mobile version of a website. Google’s previous algorithm updates – Penguin and Panda, for example – had big impacts on big companies. This one is likely to have a more profound impact on the smaller B2B and B2C firms (retailers) who have yet to make mobile a priority.
Risks of Doing Nothing
Ignoring the mobile technology trend is no longer an option. In sum, here are the business risks related to mobile deficiencies:
- Findability: Your site may lose visibility on searches conducted using one of the biggest game-changers of the 21st century: mobile technology;
- Conversions / Revenue Growth: Assuming your site is discovered by potential buyers on their mobile devices, difficulty navigating and reading the content will undoubtedly inhibit sales leads and conversion events; and
- Brand Damage: You may be sending the message to prospects and customers that your competition is more technically astute than your business.
Spring Into Action: Remedial Steps
The good news? Google has provided ample warning and resources. Since this new algorithm won’t go into effect until April 21, businesses have a window of opportunity. As part of “spring cleaning” at your business, we recommend making sure every page of your site is mobile-friendly by adopting a responsive web design. (We like WordPress.) Google determines mobile friendliness on a page-by-page basis, so it’s important to ensure that the entire site makes the grade. Here’s a quick test you can conduct on your site to understand what Google thinks of it.
Google has also issued a Mobile Usability Report in Google Webmaster Tools, and a guide to mobile-friendly sites. These resources allow site owners to better understand what might need to be changed or updated in order to continue appearing high in search results. In short, Google considers your site mobile-friendly if:
- your text is legible without users having to zoom in;
- content is automatically resized so that users don’t have to zoom or scroll;
- good spacing exists between hyperlinks thus making user selections easy; and
- it avoids software that may not be supported on typical user devices.
Until now, a responsive design site may not have impacted your search ranking although it had the benefit of creating a seamless experience across all devices. After April 21st, a responsive design will keep you competitive – and may even increase your competitiveness if your industry peers remain complacent. If Google Search matter to your business, it is essential to up your game to “mobile-friendly.”
Tom Kennedy is a business website and digital marketing advisor for Digital Assets, Inc. a Centennial, Colorado-based provider of web design and development, customer application development and search engine marketing. For more information, visit us at: http://digitalassets.wpengine.com/