Don’t Let Google’s "Mobile-Friendly" Update Hold Your Website Hostage

In Mobile, SEO by Tim Dumas

Google released its “Mobile-Friendly” update today, and you don’t want to let it ruin your investment in your business by losing rank on its search engine. What does this mean? It means that if your site doesn’t meet Google’s standards for mobile-friendly design, its Google ranking will be affected for mobile searchers.

What does “mobile-friendly” mean?

A website that is mobile-friendly:

  • Does not use software that isn't supported by most mobile devices, like Flash
  • Does not force a mobile user to scroll horizontally to read copy
  • Does not require a mobile user to tap or pinch to zoom to read copy
  • Does not display links or buttons that are too small or close for a mobile user to easily tap

Why is Google doing this?

In short, because it’s good for their customers. If you are searching from a mobile device, you want your results to be easy to read and navigate. Google is just making sure that their top search results will be easily consumed. They will also now be tagging sites with a gray “Mobile-friendly” label on the search engine results page (SERP) that mobile users see, as shown in Figure 1.

Figure 1 - Mobile Friendly SERP tag example

Figure 1 - Mobile Friendly SERP tag example

How do you know if your site is mobile-friendly?

It’s very easy. You can go to Google’s Mobile-Friendly Test page. You can enter your business’s web address there and it will crawl your site and tell you whether it meets their mobile-friendly standards or not.

Why should you make changes?

Here are some strong and clear business reasons for investing in making sure your website is mobile-friendly:

  • 94% of your customers use a smart phone to search for local businesses 1
  • 70% of your customers' mobile searches result in them taking an action within an hour 2
  • 61% of your customers who own a mobile phone own a smart phone 3
  • Your customers spend more time on smart phones than on desktop computers 4

How does this tie into our “Audience First” philosophy?

Mobile-friendly web design is directly aligned with our “Audience First” philosophy. You should always ask yourself, “Will my audience use a mobile device to connect with my business?” If the answer is “yes,” (and for just about every kind of business it is), you should make sure your site is mobile-friendly.

The fewer barriers you put between your audience and your messaging, the more likely they will take a positive action with your business. Ultimately, mobile-friendly is just one more way to convert more prospects into paying customers.

How does this tie into our “Audience First” philosophy?

There are a few ways:

  • Redesign your current site using responsive web design
  • Create a separate mobile website, like somesite.com and m.somesite.com
  • Use dynamic serving to show different pages to different devices for the same URL

Below is a brief overview of each of these methods. If you have questions or need help converting your site to a mobile-friendly website, don’t hesitate to contact us with your questions.

Responsive Web Design

This method is quickly becoming the most popular and, in our opinion, is the best option. It requires the least amount of long-term monetary and time investment. Almost all sites we develop for our clients use responsive web design.

Responsive sites can be easily implemented by both small businesses and large corporations. They allow you to maintain a single site, with little, if any, special server configuration. Businesses do not have to retain a separate employee with a special skill set to maintain their website.

Separate URLs for Mobile Sites

In the early days of mobile devices, this became a popular solution, and many businesses still use it. We’ve all seen it when we type a web address into our phone’s browser and it automatically switches to a URL like “m.somesite.com.” This could easily be implemented by a business of any size, and it involves very little server configuration. However, it means you must build–and maintain–two separate websites: one for desktop computers and another for mobile devices. This solution is now falling behind the times, partly because it’s too much of a hassle to have to update two different sites.

Dynamic Serving

Because of the special skill set required to maintain a site like this, it is mostly relegated to large corporations that want to target completely different experiences to different devices. If that is what your business needs to do, dynamic serving would be an excellent option. Businesses do have to retain a separate employee or agency with a special skill set to maintain their website. This is the most complex solution, and the majority of businesses will not choose this method.

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