Is Your Website Ready for Mobilegeddon?
Stock the (virtual) pantry. Batten down the (cyber) hatches. Mobilegeddon is coming.
Yes, it’s true. On April 21st Google will begin using mobile-friendliness as a ranking factor in search results. For now, this algorithm change affects searches conducted in any language on any mobile device worldwide — but I’d venture to guess that desktop search rankings won’t be too far behind.
Why does a website’s mobile-friendliness matter? Well, when your site is optimized for all screen sizes you increase your conversions and customer retention, among other business-friendly perks. Another good reason is to keep up with (or outpace!) your competitors. But perhaps the most compelling reason is that this is simply the way we live now.
Google leads the mobile way
Google’s been watching the move to mobile for years and has done a very good job of pacing itself well ahead of the curve. In 2012 Google released a study called “The New Multi-screen World” which shed light on the ways consumers interact with screens these days. The study stated that we move between mobile, tablet, desktop, and TV screens fluidly throughout our day, using each to serve a distinct purpose, and that “search is the most common bridge between devices in this sequential usage.”
At the end of the study Google concluded:
“Smartphones are the backbone of our daily media use. They are the devices used most throughout the day and serve as the most common starting point for activities across multiple screens. Going mobile has become a business imperative.“
Okay, I get it, it’s important. So how do I make sure my site is mobile-friendly?
Google’s helpfully already thought of that for you. Simply visit their Mobile-Friendly Test tool to see how your site checks out. Keep in mind that the tool does not check the entire site, just the page you enter. Be sure to check all the pages on your site because results could vary from page to page.
If you get the green light, you’re good. But if you get a warning like the below, don’t despair. There are a number of things you can do.
Help! My page didn’t pass the test.
First of all, don’t panic. For now this only affects mobile searches, and if your mobile traffic still makes up a smaller percentage of your overall traffic then it’s probable that you won’t see a huge impact in your rankings. However, it is an issue you need to address sooner rather than later, and depending on your situation you have a few options:
Go responsive. If your website is currently running on CMS software such as WordPress or Joomla, switch to a responsive theme. The downside to this is that it’s not always a seamless change and you may end up spending an unexpected amount of time fixing certain elements.
Start clean. If your site is not set up on a CMS, you can hire a designer/developer to rebuild your current site to be responsive. This is the most expensive and time-consuming option upfront, but it may be a wise investment for the future — once you have the new site in place you won’t have to think about it again until it’s time for the next redesign.
Target mobile only. If the thought of completely redoing your website gives you a major migraine, you can get around a complete redesign by creating a separate mobile site on a subdomain. This means that a visitor on a mobile device will be redirected to a slightly different URL — think m.YOURWEBSITE.com. This may be less of a time and money investment upfront but then you have two different websites — mobile and desktop — to update, plus you have to deal with browser and web standards changes on your own.
Apply a plugin bandaid. If your site is running on WordPress or Joomla you may be able to install a plugin that will “convert” your site to mobile. This can rarely be completed in “just a few clicks” as some plugins advertise, and beware of free versions that will apply their own logos and branding. This can be a decent temporary fix while your team works on redeveloping your existing website.
Or, just fix what’s wrong. Sometimes, a page won’t pass Google’s mobile-friendly test because of certain standalone elements, such as a table. Or it’s possible you’re running an outdated version of your theme and that updating to the latest version will take care of a lot of the mobile errors — just make sure to backup your site before you update.
CMS what? Subdomain who?
If all this sounds like so much gibberish, we’d be happy to help you sort it out. Get in touch if you need us.