By now we all know that Google is in the habit of changing things up to “guide” the way businesses design and use their websites. Their latest effort – an algorithm aimed at promoting mobile-friendliness – was fearfully billed in advance by many as “Mobilegeddon,” or other similar warnings. And yet we’re all still here. Yes, some businesses have seen a noticeable drop in their display rankings on Google, but one might argue that was richly deserved.
Here’s the deal: Google’s sometimes heavy-handed efforts to control the search environment aside, does anyone really think mobile-friendly websites should NOT be rewarded? The majority of searchers are now using a mobile device to initiate their search. This is not news. Businesses that have ignored this trend thus far are flirting with a reputation for customer disservice.
If that’s you, Google was trying to do you a favor with their latest algorithm change – and it wasn’t even all that painful. Google reports that some businesses took the hint before the changes went into effect, resulting in a 4.7% uptick in mobile-friendly websites in March and April.
The point of the April change.
The new algorithm rewards mobile-friendly sites by giving them higher search display rankings. In other words, if you ranked well previously but your website wasn’t optimized for mobile users, you probably saw your rankings drop. (Did you check?) A sudden drop like this could be catastrophic if it means your mobile-friendly competitor now ranks higher. Ouch.
The truth is, Google’s mobile update wasn’t that big a deal. But it surely should serve as a wake-up call for every business, everywhere.
It’s also important to note that rankings are ordered differently for smartphone search results and desktop search results. Search engines do that for obvious reasons – if you’re searching from your phone, you want results you can use conveniently. This practice isn’t restricted to Google, and it predates Google’s “Mobilegeddon” switch-up. As of June of last year, various sources claimed mobile and desktop search results differed from one another by 62% to 73%.
Meanwhile, Google has begun indexing mobile apps, similarly to how they index websites, and their stated intention is to continue their efforts to give more play to mobile-friendly sites while dimming visibility of non-mobile-friendly sites. So think of Mobilegeddon as an opportunity to improve.
No whining. Be friendly.
Of course you want people to have the best possible experience searching, if that could lead them to your business. The search itself is, in some ways, their first impression of you. And we all know how important that is. So no business should need a kick in the behind (or even a gentle nudge) from Google to do everything possible to court those searching on the go.
Creating a mobile-optimized website isn’t just about higher search rankings. If mobile users cannot easily use your site once they do find it, they won’t bother. We’re all busy – and we’ve all become hopelessly impatient – so time-wasters like screens that are painful to negotiate just aren’t worth the effort, no matter how succulent your products or services may be.
Being found online is as critical for small local businesses as it is for big nationals and global conglomerates. Even more so, really. Most small businesses cater to a narrowly-defined geographic area, and an increasing number of people want to do business as locally as they can. Yet studies show as many as 90% of small business websites are not mobile-friendly.
What can you do?
Invest in mobile technology to create a responsive website – you’ll not only attract more new traffic, you’ll please the heck out of your existing customers.
Have you ever tried to visit your website from your smartphone or a tablet? Try it, and see what you get. Then use Google’s super-easy mobile-friendly URL checker to see what Google thinks of your website. Hmmmm. If you don’t meet Google’s standards, you’ll see why so you know what to fix. One of the most common problems with tiny screens is that buttons are so small or so close together no one can tap on just one. You may notice this yourself when you do your own site test.
If your site was already mobile-enhanced, is it as great as it could be? Have you asked your prospects and customers what they think of it? That’s an easy, effective way to collect actionable information from your best sources while engaging them in a meaningful way. Double win.
If your site isn’t as well, modern, as it should be, now is your big chance to show prospects and customers you are all about them, after all. You can catch up to the competition or, better yet, step in front and take the lead. The good news is that buffing up your “mobile muscle” will enable you to regain formerly higher rankings. All is not lost, it’s just in limbo, waiting for you to make the next move.
You may find that with a few relatively simple upgrades your site is good to go. On the other hand, if you haven’t refreshed your website in a while, this is the perfect time to create something new and more responsive for everyone. Once you’ve gone to the trouble of updating your site, be sure to closely monitor your analytics. After all, you want to make sure it’s working.