Fairfax / Newcastle Herald column May, 2015
BIG changes at Google mean it is time to get responsive.
It probably comes as no surprise to hear that mobile device usage is on the rise. Last year marked the first time that mobile internet traffic surpassed desktop traffic, and recent reports show that 60per cent of total digital media time is spent on smartphones and tablets.
What this means for your business is that more customers are finding your website on mobile devices. And if your site is not optimised for mobile viewing, it is highly likely they’re clicking away to your competition.
However, the most compelling reason to ensure that your business site is a responsive website is Google. The world’s most popular search engine stated in 2012 that its algorithms prefer responsive design and the most recent Google algorithm update reinforces the search engine giant’s dedication to mobile-friendly pages.
This year Google has made an even bigger move by announcing, ‘‘Starting April 21, we will be expanding our use of mobile-friendliness as a ranking signal. This change will affect mobile searches in all languages worldwide and will have a significant impact in our search results.’’
What this means is that mobile friendliness will be a ranking criteria for websites on Google. The algorithms will favour mobile-friendly sites, using a real-time, page-by-page basis to determine mobile friendliness, and penalise sites that display poorly on mobile devices. A website that is not a responsive website or mobile-friendly will suffer negative SEO and decreased search engine rankings.
If your site isn’t fully optimised for mobile devices, you will likely see a hit to your ranking on mobile searches. Which is why many in the industry have started calling this ‘‘mobilegeddon.’’
To give you an idea of the importance of this update, Zineb Ait Bahajji, a member of Google’s Webmaster Trends team, was quoted as saying that the new mobile-friendly algorithm change will have more of an impact on search rankings than either Panda or Penguin, two of the largest and most significant search algorithm updates Google has ever launched.
If your site is already mobile-friendly, you won’t have much to worry about. However, if you’ve not yet implemented a mobile strategy for your online presence, now is the critical time to get it done. Most experts are recommending a move towards responsive web design.
A responsive site takes a standard website and instructs the mobile device on how to display it properly. Responsive websites can handle any resolution with changes in CSS files, which affect how the elements on web pages are presented. Computers, laptops, smartphones, and tablets will all display the website in the best way possible.
If you’re not sure whether your website meets the criteria, you can use Google’s free testing tool, google.com/webmasters/tools/mobile-friendly/ to analyse your pages, and receive suggestions on how to improve the mobile responsiveness of your website.
But move quickly or you may find your web traffic dropping away rapidly.