Trying to find information on a desktop website using a device that’s a tenth of the size can be pretty annoying - regardless of how big mobile screens are getting. But bad UI aside, there is now a better reason to have a device responsive website. The Silicon Valley search engine giant has changed the way it ranks all websites in an event the tabloids are calling ‘Mobilegeddon’ or ‘Mobilepocalyse’. How inventive! Let's clear the air and take a look at what exactly happened.
The Techie Explanation To The Google Change
Google decided to change its algorithm so that mobile friendly sites now get ranked higher than those who are not. On the flip, non-mobile sites get ranked lower. And that's dangerous for your business.
The change is designed to help users find search results formatted for their device. According to Google. This change will have an effect on websites that are not mobile responsive, meaning that regardless of how good the SEO is structured, another website could rank higher because it is mobile friendly. It’s important stuff, but not quite like how the Millennium Bug was made out to be. That was vicious, right? “We will be expanding our use of mobile-friendliness as a ranking signal. This change will affect mobile searches in all languages worldwide and will have a significant impact in our search results,” Takaki Makino, Chaesang Jung and Doantam Phan in a blog post for Google webmasters.
Is this as bad as is being made out?
As more and more smartphones and tablets are being sold into the global marketplace, many of us are using them as a means to obtain information from the web.
A recent survey conducted by eMarketer found that in the UK, adults will spend more time on mobile devices than desktop computers, an average of 2 hours 26 minutes a day on mobile devices compared to 2 hours 13 minutes on a desktop. On top of this, Google estimates that up to 50% of its searches are now conducted on mobile devices, through mobile browsers and its own search apps.
This is particularly important for local businesses as local search queries are estimated to be about 80% of mobile users. And it’s not only Google jumping on the mobile-friendly bandwagon, soon after Google made its algorithm changes, the likes of Bing and Yahoo followed suit.
How can you fix this?
Given that 50% of Google searches are now made on mobile devices, websites that are not mobile responsive will tumble down the pecking order of a Google search.
Luckily, Google has removed the guesswork from the process and is now transparent about what pages will get a higher ranking. You can check how mobile friendly your website is with this handy tool. Google will give you a little diagnostic on how to improve its compatibility. How cool!
A good article wouldn't be complete without a shameless plug._ All of our bespoke websites are fully responsive and compatible on all mobile devices, screen sizes and browser. We enjoy making them that way.
What are your options for a mobile friendly site?
If you already have a site and want to adapt it to become mobile friendly then you have three options, my friend:
1. Build Mobile-Responsivity into Your Site
This is pretty self-explanatory: Make your website adapt in size regardless of device, screen size or browser. This is what Google recommends. And this is what we personally recommend, especially with the latest web design trends.
2. Develop a Dynamic Serving of Your Current Site
This is effectively a mobile friendly version of your current website that gets passed when viewed on a mobile device. A little more tricky to set up, but probably the second best option.
3. Use Separate URLs for Each Page
This is the most tricky. And probably the worst way to go about it. In a nutshell, this serves different code to each device, and through separate URLs. It tries to detect the visitor's device and redirects them to the appropriate page (which will be mobile friendly). This can weaken your pages' SEO ranking, and maybe even confuse your visitors sharing links.
The future of mobile friendly websites
I think we can all agree that mobile usage is only going to increase. However, the fact is that many people still use their desktop often enough for that to be an important factor(!). The rise in modern web trends indicates that a mobile-first approach to development is the best way to go. And it still will be for some time. You might have also seen that Mozilla recently blocked Adobe Flash from its browser. At least for a few hours, anyway. It seems Flash might finally be starting to end its slow death. I personally think this has led to a better web with the rise of HTML5 and other new technologies. If there's one thing to take from any of this, make the user's experience the very best it can be. That should be at the very top of the list.
So, to recap...
Google (and other search engines soon) do NOT like you anymore if you have a non-mobile friendly website. While there are a few options, using tools like Bootstrap to create an adjustable website is the best way to go. Our final recommendation? Get a mobile responsive site ASAP. Not only will it save your search traffic, it'll also give your users a much better experience all round. Which should really be a major playing factor anyway.
Links & Resources:
We've thrown together all the links below with some new resources we think will benefit you.
- eMarketer data on UK adults and mobile usage
- Google's mobile friendly testing tool
- Web design trends to expect in 2015
Our favourite thing about these kind of posts is hearing feedback and your experience with mobile friendly (or unfriendly) sites. Please ask any questions or share your experiences on Twitter. We can't wait to hear from you! Download this article as a PDF