In an update to their search algorithm, Google recently announced that starting April 21st, they will be increasing their use of mobile-friendliness as a ranking signal for all searches performed on mobile devices. According to Google, the change will have a “significant impact” on their search results.
With this update, Google is reaffirming what everyone from internet users to industry experts already knows: having a mobile friendly website is very important.
Your website should be mobile-friendly to benefit your users; not just because Google says so
The landscape of the way users access the internet is shifting toward mobile devices. 2014 was the first year in which internet usage on mobile devices surpassed that on desktops. An increasing amount of current and potential customers will be visiting your website from smartphones and tablets, so don’t you want to give them the best user experience possible?
This is why mobile-friendly websites and responsive design are such important topics. If a user goes to your website and finds it difficult to navigate or use, he or she will quickly move onto the next one. Utilizing a responsive design delivers a positive user experience no matter the device someone is using to view your website. When making decisions about your website, make sure you are doing so with the user in mind and not just to improve your place in Google search rankings.
So, what’s the deal with this algorithm update?
According to Stephen Nuttall, Online Marketing Consultant at Miles Technologies, this was one of the rare occasions where Google announced an update like this ahead of time. Typically Google will announce algorithm updates right as they go into effect, so they aren’t providing an advanced warning for companies engaging in questionable blackhat tactics and spammy practices. These sites can be immediately pushed down in search rankings in order to elevate other sites that are actually providing users with relevant information.
Nuttall says that this update shows Google is more concerned with user experience.“By letting people know in advance, this update was announced more for the users rather than for companies trying to beat the algorithm,” he says.
This update is not a drastic change in the algorithm, as Nuttall also notes that Google was already taking user experience into account with its search rankings via metrics like page speed and click through rate. Nuttall says these metrics would already likely downgrade a non-mobile-friendly site on a mobile search due to non-mobile friendly sites having longer load times, and users bouncing off of them in search for a better search experience.
This algorithm update will also occur on a real-time basis, meaning that Google will index any changes made toward mobile-friendliness the next time it crawls a site. So, if your website needs a mobile-friendly facelift, the sooner you update it, the sooner Google can index it.
It is also important to note that the algorithm will evaluate your site on a page-by-page basis. Therefore, if your website needs a complete overhaul to become mobile-friendly, you may want to update your most important pages right away and then take care of the rest of the site.
The Local Business Impact
Mobile searches are on the rise, and experts predict mobile search spending will surpass desktop in 2015. Nuttall says that one of the biggest impacts of this Google algorithm update will be seen on local businesses, because local searches make up a very large part of mobile searches.
When mobile users search on Google for products or services, provided Google has permission to access the location, Google will display results of businesses local to the area that match the search queries. This is why local SEO is so important. You want your company to get found by users in the area who could be literally down the street while conducting their mobile searches. Not having a mobile-friendly website means users are less likely to find you, and if they do find you, they will be visiting a website with a user experience that is not geared toward the mobile device they are using.
Is my website mobile-friendly? If not, how can I get it to be?
If you are unsure whether your website qualifies as mobile-friendly, Google has a simple tool where you enter the URL and Google will analyze it for mobile-friendliness.
If your websites needs changes to become mobile-friendly, Google also offers a series of guides for doing it yourself or working with a website developer.
What questions do you have about mobile-friendliness? If you’ve attempted to implement a mobile-friendly website, what are some of the challenges you’ve faced? We’d love to hear from you in the comments below.
If you have specific questions about the mobile-friendliness of your website or need a mobile-friendly design implemented, contact us today to speak to an experienced Web Advisor. Our website design experts specialize in responsive design.