After April 21, 2015, the importance in having a mobile friendly website is going to become even more significant when it comes to searches conducted on cell phones. According to what Google’s Webmaster Trends team member Zineb Ait Bahajji said at SMX Munich in March, the upcoming mobile-friendly ranking algorithm will have a greater impact on Google’s search results than the Google Panda update and the Google Penguin update did. Again, this is specific to mobile search.
While a specific percentage of searches expected to be affected wasn’t provided by Google, it’s important to understand about 50% of Google searches are done on smart phones. Depending on your industry, the percentage of your consumers using mobile for search will vary, but with the advances in technology businesses should expect to see an overall reduction in presence in search results if not prepared for this algorithm update. As use of yellow pages continues to wane, and searches for restaurants, dentists, plumbers, and other high call rate services increase through mobile, this seems to be Google’s effort to give greater representation to websites keeping with development standards and offering a greater user experience to visitors to websites.
So, what does it mean to be “mobile friendly”?
Some might believe because they don’t have FLASH on their site or that their entire site can be seen on smart phones, the site is mobile friendly. Unfortunately, that’s not the case. Mobile friendly websites can be one of two things: fully responsive or a mobile version.
With the two websites in the above image, you can see both websites on a mobile device, but only one of them is setup as “mobile friendly”. It’s built as a responsive website, meaning it appears differently on tablets and mobile devices than it would on laptops and PCs. Programming is added to re-format the site according to the width of the device being used to view the website.
For some businesses, re-designing a website to be responsive could be quite the undertaking and creating a mobile version of the website is more practical. You can spot some mobile versions by seeing an m. before the web address (for example: m.facebook.com) or /mobile after the .com. There are some plugins available for various platforms like WordPress and Magento that will adopt a mobile look when they detect a mobile device is being used.
Ideally, these mobile friendly versions of the website will focus visitors on priority calls to action, such as calling, filling out a form, or purchasing. Once a potential customer finds your website from a search, it’s important to direct them to your conversion funnel as quickly, with the least amount of navigation or scrolling as possible. In recent months, Google has recommended businesses prioritize the design of there websites based on how it will appear on smart phones. Updating their algorithm to favor a mobile friendly websites for mobile searches doesn’t just force what they’ve been encouraging for several years now, it answers to the demand of their searchers of a more desirable user experience.
Every few years, it’s important to make sure your website is keeping up with not just trends, but rather the standards. According to what Google is doing with this algorithm update, mobile web design is becoming a very specific standard when it comes to being successful with mobile search traffic.