If you’ve not yet heard about the new Google algorithm change now is the time to listen up. On or around April 21st Google will implement a new algorithm that will give precedence to website that are considered “mobile-friendly”. What does this mean exactly? Will your website be lost in the Google shuffle, causing your website traffic to suffer?
Mobile friendly websites are an absolute must these days. According to comScore, over 50% of search queries come from a mobile device and they estimate that in the next five years that number will jump closer to 70%. While the desktop version of websites is certainly not dying, this means that if your website is not optimized for a mobile device you could take a hit in overall Google search rankings.
Most of use are familiar with the effect Google has on the success of a website; at least organically. If you are in the top five search results your website gets visited significantly more often; and if your website falls on the second page or further, you can all but say goodbye to organic search traffic. Sure, there are plenty of other platforms out there to gain visitor-ship and obtain new leads and customers, but nothing beats a free, quality lead or visitor.
If you’re currently unfamiliar with how exactly Google works, here is a layman’s version:
Google focuses on a few key areas. While it does still take into account the Title of a page and the Meta Description, Google focuses mostly on the trust factor. Your website gains trust by providing quality content that is useful to the searcher. For instance, if you build a website and stuff it with keywords and phrases but don’t provide anything useful to the searcher your site will not be considered trustworthy. In the past, many “black hat” search engine optimizers would use tricks such as these to climb search rankings quickly. Google has focused intently on halting this practice.
So, how does your site gain trust? Links. Sure, it sounds simple, however, gaining links to your website from other websites isn’t always an easy task. You can help yourself by providing your visitors with quality, useful, and most importantly unique content that is worth sharing on other websites. Think about websites like ESPN.com, or the Washingtonpost.com for instance. When you search for topics such as sports or political news these two will come up often. Why? Not only are they well-known, but they are considered trustworthy due to longevity and the amount of links they garner from other people around the web. Imagine how many people and websites link to an ESPN or Washington Post article. There are hundreds, thousands even.
In the end, what Google has been looking for is trustworthy sites that provide the searcher with what they are searching for. This often includes geographic location, but that’s a topic for another day. What does this mean for you and your not-so-mobile-friendly website? Well, it means you should put creating a mobile site or making your current website responsive at the top of your to-do list.
What is considered a mobile-friendly website?
A mobile-friendly website is one that is just as easily viewable on a mobile device such as a smartphone or tablet as it is on a desktop. There are a few ways to accomplish this. One way is to create a completely different website that is optimized for a mobile device. When a user is on a device smaller than a certain screen size they will be served the mobile version of your site. The issue here is that mobile sites add to the workload for you and your team. The best way to make your website mobile-friendly is to make your website responsive. Say it with me now, RE-SPON-SIVE. Responsive design means your website reacts, or responds, to the a particular screen size. In simple terms this means your desktop version is realigned to fit a smaller device while still being easily readable. This means images, text, videos, etc are still clear and easy to see, yet fit nicely on a small screen. We’ll use our website as an example:
Here is the desktop version of our site.
Looks great on laptops and desktops right? But what about on a smaller, mobile screen? Here is an example of what our website would look like on a mobile device.
See how the elements become stacked atop one another? Imagine if the layout were the exact same as the desktop version. The text would be difficult to read and you’d probably just say “forget this!” and move on to another website.
Responsive website design is imperative for a clean and overall positive user experience. Of course, it will now be required if you wish to stay out of Google’s doghouse – which we all know extremely difficult to get out of once you’re in.
How is responsive website design accomplished? There is not a one-size-fits-all answer to this question, but in general there are a couple ways you can make sure your website is responsive to all screen sizes.
One way is to use what is called Media Queries. This allows the web page to respond to a certain screen size and use alternative CSS styles to accommodate the screen size. This is one of the most common methods.
Piggy backing on this concept is using flexible CSS for text and images. This means using percentages instead of pixels (50% vs. 600px). This is also known as a fluid grid concept. This is also very common.
Now, you don’t have to necessarily choose one or another, you can use these approaches in tandem. In fact, the entire concept of responsive web design uses fluid, proportion based grids along with proper CSS when a certain media rule is called.
At the end of the day, though, making sure your website’s user experience is ideal on a desktop and mobile devices is absolutely necessary. If people want to visit your site and find it difficult to navigate or hard to read they will quickly leave. This also means the user may not trust your website as a positive result for their search query. Even if your content is great, no one is going to see it if it’s not adapted to the type of user (desktop vs. mobile).
Now, you don’t need to panic if you haven’t yet thought about making your website responsive. There is still time; and although big bad Google is warning that you may lose your search rankings because of it, just be sure to take your time to provide the best user experience possible.