Mobilegeddon: Why having a mobile-friendly website is no longer a luxury
Having a mobile-friendly website is now a practical necessity thanks to an update from Google that will dramatically change the way search results are displayed on smartphones, tablets and the like.
You may have seen news about ‘mobilegeddon’ floating around in recent days, but what exactly is this update and what does it mean for your site’s position in search results?
A bit of background
On February 26th, Google announced that as of April 21st, the use of mobile-friendliness as a ranking signal would be expanded – with a ‘significant’ impact on search results expected to follow.
Elaborating on this, the search giant confirmed it would be “boosting” the ranking of mobile-friendly pages for those conducting their searches via mobile devices.
While this doesn’t mean your website will vanish from mobile search results altogether – it’s likely to put you at something of a disadvantage relative to those that do cater for smartphone and tablet users.
Within mobile search results, Google has also begun granting mobile-friendly sites a corresponding label to denote their status. This builds upon a 2013 update that saw it roll out ranking changes that penalised websites that failed to cater for this fast-growing segment of internet users.
What Makes a Mobile-Friendly Site?
In its announcement, Google states a page is eligible for this label if its search spiders detect it:
· “Avoids software that is not common on mobile devices, like Flash
· Uses text that is readable without zooming
· Sizes content to the screen so users don’t have to scroll horizontally or zoom
· Places links far enough apart so that the correct one can be easily tapped.”
Fortunately, its newly-unveiled tool will not only allow you to discover how mobile-friendly your site is, but if it’s lacking in certain areas, will also offer advice on how to improve your set-up.
Why Cater for Mobile?
While catering for the fast-growing base of mobile internet users is generally a good idea – Google’s carrot-and-stick tactics provide a valuable incentive to play ball.
Last year saw mobile internet usage overtake that of PCs for the first time ever. And figures from comScore show that smartphones and tablets accounted for 60 per cent of all online traffic during 2014.
This trend is of particular import for B2B companies, with an IDG report suggesting most executives researched products and services for their business via mobile devices – both in and outside of office hours.
As mentioned, Google’s 2013 update began restructuring search results for mobile searchers – putting non-mobile-friendly sites at an immediate disadvantage. This latest update indicates the search juggernaut is staying the course with its plan, offering tangible benefits to those who meet the needs of mobile users.
As noted above, Google has unveiled a new tool to help users discover how friendly a website is in terms of mobile browsing.
Simply enter your URL (i.e. website address) into the tool and if it doesn’t meet the criteria, you’ll be provided with the reasons why, as well as advice on how to fix these problems.
Naturally, redeveloping your site for mobile will come at a cost, after all it typically involves creating several designs for varying screen sizes. So you’ll have to balance your desire to feature prominently in mobile search with that expenditure.
Similarly, some have noted that these features are merely something Google is “experimenting” with and pointed to other experiments – like Authorship and Buzz – that have been unceremoniously abandoned in the past.
And while this point is factually correct, my two cents are that it simply makes sense to optimise search results for the type of device being used to conduct the search.
So I don’t see the big G changing tack on this front in the near future and wonder if it’ll be rolling out similar features for things like wearable devices (e.g. Glass and Smartwatches) in the coming years.
Do you think catering for mobile is a good idea or will PCs and laptops always rule the roost? Whatever your thoughts, be sure to leave us a comment below or get in touch Twitter – we always want to hear what you have to say.
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