Sifting through websites on your mobile device has become increasing frustrating for the general public. No one enjoys looking at a page where the content is too small, the links seem impossible to click, and you have to resize, pan or scroll just to see everything that is supposed to be on the screen. And while large corporations have long extolled the virtues of mobile-friendly websites and mobile applications, small to mid-sized businesses (SMBs) have had to balance the need to meet their consumer’s preferences with the need to spend money carefully, and revamping their possibly outdated, not-so-mobile websites will definitely require spending extra funds. For those who have been ignoring the mobile trend, Google says to put it on your priority list, or else! Google announced last week that it will be “expanding [its] use of mobile-friendliness as a ranking signal”, affecting mobile searches worldwide starting April 21st.
Smaller is Not Always Better
Before going any further, let’s make it clear that a mobile site isn’t simply a “smaller” version of your website. It is a website that is optimized for mobile use – either by using responsive web design (RWD) that adapts the layout to the viewing environment based on screen size, or by creating a completely separate website with functionality and design that is unique for mobile devices. Regardless of which version you choose, the premise is to provide an optimal viewing experience, which includes simple navigation, easy reading, and minimizes the need to resize, pan or scroll. RWD is typically preferred for SMBs because managing a single responsive website is a lot easier than managing multiple domains. Plus, you don’t have to make significant coding changes as new device sizes are introduced.
The New PageRank for Mobile Search
Google’s PageRank system is used to order search engine results by measuring the importance of the website pages against the user’s search term. And since it is meant to provide users with the best possible user experience with the minimal number of clicks, it makes sense that Google wants that experience to be just as pleasant on mobile devices. Google’s decision to designate “mobile-friendly” sites in 2014 should have been a heads up as to the direction they were going in with mobile search rankings.
Google isn’t totally insensitive to the time and money it takes to create a more mobile-friendly site, which is why they are giving everyone until April 21st to get their sites up to snuff before changing the rankings. The good news is the new mobile PageRank algorithm will run in real-time, meaning that even if April 21st comes and goes, your website will start benefiting from your redesign efforts as soon as your new mobile-friendly website launches. The algorithm will also run on a page-by-page basis, so having sub-sections or specialized landing pages that are not mobile-friendly won’t hurt your main pages.
Growth of the Mobile User
This change could not have come soon enough, as 60% of digital media consumption is done on mobile devices. Nearly 1/3 of consumers now cite mobile as a preferred shopping method, and that number is only growing. Even in B2B industries, where major purchasing decisions require custom proposals, board meetings, and negotiations, potential customers are doing at least some of their initial research on mobile devices. No company is exempt from this trend so if you haven’t already, now is the time to jump on the mobile bandwagon and help optimize your user experience.