SMEs and start-ups that don’t have a mobile-friendly website will now be punished by Google in web searches on mobile devices
A ranking on page one of Google is like gold dust in this day and age. It’s safe to say that any business that finds its website on page two of Google, or beyond, needs a fairly sizeable overhaul of its digital strategy. And, as of April 21, any such overhaul will now need to be made with mobile phone users in mind.
As announced in a blog post back in February, Google is starting to reward websites that are ‘mobile-friendly’ when people search the web on their mobile phone. This means that any website offering a poor mobile experience will fall down Google’s rankings on mobile devices.
This latest algorithm change – which is set to shake up search results even more than Google’s last two updates, Panda and Penguin – is a response to the amount of web traffic that now flows through mobile phones. Google estimated that about 50% of web searches are currently conducted from mobile devices, through mobile browsers and its own search apps. And this only looks set to rise in the future, at the expense of our trusty old PCs and laptops.
But let’s get down to the nitty-gritty. How do you know if your site is mobile-friendly? Well, Google has created a handy little tool which lets people test their site’s mobile-friendliness. We’d recommended trying it out here. Essentially, Google is looking for websites that boast a responsive design. The size of the text – the larger the better – along with the amount of space between links and whether the website scales to fit the size of your mobile screen are all important aspects of this. In other words, if you have to zoom in or ‘pinch’ the screen in order to view a website on your phone, it isn’t going to be ranked very highly by Google.
"If you search on your phone and then go to a site where you need a magnifying glass to read the text, it’s a pain," said Peter Gunning, chief technology officer at nettl.com, which specialises in mobile optimisation services.
"I’ve lost count of the number of times I’ve visited a website on my phone to get a contact phone number for a business and it turns out to be a picture of a phone number on some obscure webpage. You need to make it easy for visitors, or quite simply they won’t come back."
It’s worth noting that this algorithm change only applies to searches on mobile devices. That means it won't have any bearing on businesses’ ranking on laptops and PCs, for example. But, with mobile commerce on the rise, and smartphones now a ubiquitous presence in society, we’d recommended getting mobile sooner rather than later.