The writing has been on the wall for several years now about how Mobile Devices are impacting the way the internet is used and how it is impacting on businesses. Now we are about to see how this impacts the traffic (read: new prospects) we get from Google.
Last month Google gave website owners advance notice of their upcoming algorithm change. On April 21 they will be including “Mobile Friendliness” as a ranking factor.
This effectively means that if your site is not mobile friendly your ranking will be affected by it.
This is significant and follows on from the movement of much site traffic from desktop to mobile devices over the last 3-4 years. Keep in mind this isn’t just about smart phones albeit that they make up a large chunk of the traffic, it also includes Tablets and the hybrids known as Phablets.
What does this mean for you?
If your ranking for mobile devices is affected then yes you will lose important and valuable traffic!
When we look over the traffic data with our clients many of them have well over 30% of their traffic now coming from mobile devices with others now up to and over 50%.
That means that if you haven’t already taken the necessary steps to fix your site for mobile, you potentially could be closing the door to up to HALF of your potential customers.
This reinforces how serious the impact this could be for site owners.
Note also that shift is only going to continue and the majority of traffic will in the foreseeable future be driven by non Desktop devices.
Numerous well regarded optimisation experts have highlighted the impact this could have and Google’s own Zineb Ait Bahajii was noted by Search Engine Land as stating this change will have far reaching consequences and will be bigger than either the Penguin or Panda algorithm changes.
Why is Mobile so important to Google?
It makes sense. When so many users are searching on mobile devices and want to use mobile devices why should they be pushed to a site that is unusable or difficult to use. The usability and usefulness of a site should and does impact on the way that site is ranked.
Given how big an impact the smart phone has made already it makes sense that search engines want to make sure they are providing relevant and accurate rankings to their users.
Now we are all well warned about when the change is happening the race is on to make sure your site complies and will not be adversely affected.
So what can you do?
Hopefully you already have a responsive design in place for your site and so now it’s about ensuring it performs well rather than actually having to majorly fix your web properties.
There are some easy tests you can run to see what sort of mobile friendly state your site is in.
Google has provided guidance to site owners on how to best improve their sites for this change, and predominantly their recommendation is to use Responsive Design as your main strategy in rebuilding/ reworking your websites. While that isn’t the only method it is their recommended method and we have written previously about that.
They have also been sending out notifications to site owners on issues commonly found on sites, even those using responsive design, as they seek to ensure that the mobile standards adhered to are even higher than they previously requested. They are now directly forcing us as developers and you as site owners to ensure you focus heavily on usability especially across mobile devices.
There are simple tests you can run to check your sites mobile performance:
These will highlight some key issues, and many sites will show some issues on the 2nd test even when they pass the Mobile Friendly Test. Utilising WordPress or Drupal with responsive Themes won’t necessarily make you fully compliant as there are a number of more complex issues that might need addressing depending on how you run your site. If you are using less current or up to date site content management issues / themes you may have more to consider.
Note that the Mobile Friendly Test is just stage 1 of the process. If you fail that, then you have a much more urgent need to address. Get your site responsive and fast! (we can help with that)
If you pass the Mobile Friendly Test then the second test becomes an area that you need to focus on and improve. Especially the Usability areas. These areas are also highlighted in Google Webmaster tools Mobile Friendliness Section.
Run the tests and if what you see worries you let me know so I can discuss your options before the deadline.