Google is releasing a major update to its search algorithm on the 21st April squarely targeted at mobile search. After this update Google will be favouring mobile friendly websites for mobile searches.
Mobile search traffic is estimated to account for approximately 30% of all searches (regardless of industry) as of 2015. For some clients we are seeing anywhere up to 60% of their traffic coming from mobile search so this update can potentially have serious implications for business that relies on search traffic from Google.
It appears that Google has decided that if your website is not seen as mobile friendly, then it will be “ranked appropriately”. You may have seen the recent tags on websites in the search engine results pages (serps) labelling a site as ‘mobile friendly’ when searching on a mobile device?
No-one is exactly sure what all of this means to the rankings, but it does seem very clear that if Google believes your website is not mobile friendly you have a very good chance over the next few months of your rankings dropping significantly on mobile searches. This will potentially result in lost conversions and sales.
If you want to know whether your website is mobile ready or not, then check out Googles Mobile-Friendly Test here. Just type in your URL and Google will give you a report on your website’s mobile status.
So what can you do about it?
Making an existing website mobile friendly can be quite easy and does not have to break the bank. If you already have a fairly modern website chances are it can be made mobile friendly using the existing site.
If your site is a little older then now might be a good time to look at whether it is worth revamping your site and making sure it is mobile friendly at the same time…a win, win.
How to become mobile friendly
There are two ways you can approach this problem. You can either have two websites, one for desktop users and one for mobile device users or you can have a responsive design which handles both user types.
So which is best for you? Well, it appears that Google prefers responsive designs. This is because with two websites, Google has to crawl both sites (because they have different URLs) and index them both. With one responsive website, Google only needs to crawl and index one website.
You need to remember that even though they have different URLs, that these websites are the same, it is just that one is designed for desktop users and the other for mobile users. Google doesn’t like what it believes are duplicates sites with the same content, so with this situation you are less likely to rank as well as you could, if you just had one responsive website.
Another factor is that people are increasingly sharing links and content across their social media networks. Having two different websites brings an added layer of complexity to sharing content across networks. For example, if someone shares a link to a desktop version of a website, those on mobile devices can’t see it very well and of course, vice versa.
We all know that Google wants to optimise the user experience and so this is another reason why Google favours responsive designs. With about 70% of the search market share, if Google likes something, we all need to pay attention!
So the upper hand is really with responsive designs. After all, one website is easier to manage than two and costs less to maintain. We also have to acknowledge that users like a consistent feel to a website and with the continuing increase in internet searches via mobile devices, being mobile friendly is fast becoming a necessity rather than an option. It is unusual for Google to come out and specifically say something will result in ranking penalties which really highlights the importance of this issue.