TLDR: Google’s “Mobilegeddon” search change means that sites with poor mobile optimization have started to fall behind in the rankings.
Many companies have put mobile optimization on the back burner when it comes to their website feature lists. While they’re aware that consumers are visiting the web from their phones more frequently, there’s only so much marketing budget to go around, and the mobile experience sometimes falls behind “must-have” features like e-commerce shopping carts, which more directly contribute to revenue growth.
The thing is, user experience is important, and Google knows it too. That’s why if you’re one of these companies we’re talking about, your web traffic levels are dropping.
On April 22nd, Google made a major algorithm shift that penalized sites that aren’t mobile-optimized. The search giant is now using mobile-friendliness as a search signal, meaning that companies who’d previously ranked highly for their targeted search terms are likely to see a decline for mobile visitors.
How big a deal is it? In some cases, a fairly major one.
If you sell products through your website, it may be the case that only a small percentage of visitors actually make purchases through their mobile devices. However, chances are that a lot of your visitors are searching for information and researching purchases before they actually make a decision, and this is when you’ll want them to stumble on your site in their searches. Today, 46% of buyers use their mobile devices as a preliminary tool when they’re researching upcoming purchase decisions, according to a study from Nielsen.
Google knows this, and wants to make sure that its search results aren’t delivering pages that are unreadable on smartphones. In their new algorithm change, they’re prioritizing search results that are optimized to be easily readable on small screens, with large buttons that make it simple to navigate between pages. If you’re not sure how your website stacks up, you can visit Google’s Mobile Friendly Test tool to find out.
Solving your mobile search problem
If you didn’t get your site optimized in time, you’re likely to have seen a drop, though it may not be as significant as predicted. The good news is, you can restore your rankings—and delight your visitors—by making the move to a mobile-friendly site now.
While some businesses have developed two separate sites—a standard desktop site and a mobile site—this is an inelegant solution, and your mobile site is likely to skip out on a lot of the features, content and functionality that are most valuable to your visitors. Instead, we recommend making the shift to a mobile-responsive site (as does Google).
Mobile-responsive website development
A mobile-responsive website is one that automatically resizes and adjusts its design based on the size of the screen, whether you are using a desktop computer, a tablet, or a smartphone. As a result, you’ll only need to maintain one version of your website, rather than two or three, and the same URL structure will apply to each visitor, no matter what device they are using.
In order to create the best user experience for your visitors and customers, it’s important to make sure that the site works well across all platforms. Rather than trying to retroactively make your existing site mobile-responsive, in many cases it may be more cost-effective and sensible to invest in a new site altogether, which is designed from the get-go to intuitively respond to changes in screen size.
Many web developers (our team included) focus on a “mobile first” philosophy—prioritizing the design for a small smartphone screen, and then working outwards from there. This results in a simpler, more elegant design that can be intuitively navigated from any device.
Google’s just telling us what we already know: Mobile is more important than ever. If your business hasn’t recognized that in its website yet, it’s a good time to make the move.
Tony Scherba is a CEO + Founding Partner at Yeti. Tony has been developing software since high school and has worked on digital products for global brands such as Google, MIT, Qualcomm, Hershey’s, Britney Spears and Harmon/Kardon. Tony’s writing about innovation and technology has been featured in Forbes, Huffington Post and Inc. At Yeti, Tony works on strategy, product design and day to day operations, hopping in and working with the development teams when needed. Follow Tony on Twitter.