It’s true. On April 21st, 2015, Google will officially include “mobile-friendliness” as a ranking factor in their search algorithm. Though we can’t say for sure how many sites this will affect, Zineb Ait Bahajii of Google’s Webmaster Trends team stated that this update will have a “significant impact” on sites not optimized for mobile, even more so than the Penguin and Panda algorithm updates. Our understanding is that this could potentially affect up to 50% of overall mobile web traffic. Yikes!
The forthcoming mobile-friendliness update symbolizes Google’s affinity for user experience, and epitomizes Google’s continued desire to serve relevant, timely, and user-optimized content to its visitors, no matter the device.
In a statement from Google:
“When it comes to search on mobile devices, users should get the most relevant and timely results, no matter if the information lives on mobile-friendly web pages or apps. As more people use mobile devices to access the internet, our algorithms have to adapt to these usage patterns.” (http://goo.gl/AA5esL)
What makes a site mobile friendly?
A mobile friendly website accounts for all devices and optimizes the user experience for smaller screen sizes with varied resolutions. Common attributes of a mobile friendly site include:
- Scalable font for easy readability on a smaller device (and so users don’t need to pinch fingers to zoom)
- Simplified navigation to make page selection easier (no multilayered drop downs)
- Click-to-call phone numbers
- Addresses linked to map GPS functionality
- Layout of content repositioned (even certain elements removed) to provide a more consumable, browsable experience on a smaller device
- Well-spaced, easy-to-touch buttons to reduce the “that’s-not-what-I-wanted” experience
Responsive site optimized for desktop, tablet and mobile
So what does this mean for you?
If your site isn’t considered mobile friendly after April 21st, expect significant drops in your mobile rankings. Consequently, since mobile traffic comprises an average of 27% of your sites overall traffic, and more than 94% of smartphone owners use their mobile devices to search for local businesses, expect a significant drop in traffic (and patients) if Google doesn’t designate your site “mobile-friendly” by D-Day.
How Do You Get In Google’s Mobile Friend Zone?
Don’t panic. There’s still time. But you’ll need to act fast…
1. First, identify whether or not your site is mobile friendly by using one of two methods:
- Google’s Mobile Friendly Test: http://goo.gl/BgtIUj (smaller sites)
This tool will test your site one page at a time (only), and then make recommendations on how to improve your mobile usability.
- Webmaster Tools Mobile Usability Report: http://goo.gl/ivZiue (larger sites)
Hopefully you already created a Google Webmaster Tools account for your site. If not, do that immediately here: http://goo.gl/85Uzao. Then, run a site wide mobile usability report using the first link. Download the report.
2. Fix the issue(s) and work your way into friend zone:
Depending on the severity of your mobile “unfriendliness,” fixing your mobile user experience may be as easy as updating your website’s theme. However, for the majority of you, you’ll need to either create a separate mobile version of your site (m.example.com), or make your existing desktop version responsive (layout automatically adjusts to fit smaller screen sizes).
For those of you brave enough to take a stab on your own, follow Google’s “How-To” Guide to Mobile Friendly Sites: http://goo.gl/rl6zHE. For the rest of you, consult your webmaster immediately or give us a call and we’ll guide you into Google’s Mobile Friend Zone unscathed.
One thing is certain: On April 21st, 2015, Google will begin demoting mobile unfriendly sites in their mobile index and drastically reduce the visibility of these sites in search.
Though the average website receives 27% mobile traffic (all industries), local businesses like your medical practice tend to attract even more given the local proclivity of mobile users (closer to 35% and up).
The good news? For once, Google has given everyone fair warning of a significant algorithm update. Any site that fails to heed their advice has no one else to blame but itself.
So what are you waiting for? If your site doesn’t pass Google’s mobile friendly test, give us a call ASAP and we’ll chart a course for friend zone. But hurry, the time is now.