Google’s radical shift toward favoring mobile-friendliness as a search engine ranking factor was so significant that it shook up the internet world in 2015. Search Engine Land dubbed it “Mobilegeddon” while others attached various related suffixes evoking an apocalyptic response.
For many (like us) who have been developing mobile-friendly and/or responsive websites for years, the new focus as a ranking factor meant an advantage. But the mobilegeddon-types were those feeling (or anticipating) the pain of recovering from either ignoring mobile-friendly design or maintaining separate desktop and mobile webspaces that would now be a disadvantage.
While we’re now more than 2 years past Google’s algorithm update (we warned you), many sites still wouldn’t pass the mobile-friendly test (there’s no middle ground—a site either is or isn’t compliant in Google’s eyes). But the stakes continue to become higher and higher, as Google constantly shifts toward not just a mobile-friendly focus but a mobile priority. Last November, it experimented with using the content on mobile website versions for search results (a mobile-first index). Sites that weren’t mobile would be indexed based off the desktop site… but they wouldn’t get the favor that mobile sites would. And in 2017? Google has straight up said mobile would be driving SEO.
Oh, and that mobile-first index experiment? That could go live globally by the end of the year or early 2018. So what does this mean for stragglers to the mobile-friendly party?
- You can’t ignore it anymore.
- If you think people aren’t using your website on mobile, you’re either wrong (more people search on mobile than on computers), or the reason you’re correct is because your site is falling in search.
- You are (or will be) losing customers over a condition that can be fixed—and should be. Optimizing your site for mobile is low-hanging fruit and should be a top priority.
Lightweight mobile-responsive code, optimized images, offsite content storage, and caching are all important elements in delivering a site that opens quickly—before mobile visitors bail and either hit the back button or close the browser. If your site doesn’t load in under 3 seconds, visitors will find a competitor whose site does. But getting closer to a 1-second load time is what’s needed to compete for the top listings.
Once visitors arrive on your site, are they met with UX (user experience) elements that make it easy to navigate and find what they’re looking for? Have you banished all unfriendly code (like the long-outdated Flash)? Do you harass them with popups and interstitials that are hard (or impossible) to work around? Are links and targets—or even body text—impossibly small? Readable, scannable content (think short bulleted lists and subheadings) and easy-to-tap calls to action are musts for great mobile UX.
Yes, mobile screens are smaller, so some developers might think that a site’s mobile “version” should be pared down. But with mobile-first indexing on the horizon, if it’s important information about your business, then it must be on your mobile-friendly website. The site should have all the content it needs, presented in a great way for great UX, and that will make your audience—and Google—happy.
Local and Social
Are you a local business with foot traffic or a service area? Optimizing your mobile site for location is even more critical than desktop, as your customer may be looking for you right now. And social isn’t just a fad—social networks can function as bona fide search engines, in addition to repositories of reviews and recommendations. Be present, and optimize both your site and your profiles for search—especially on mobile.
Don’t delay any longer if you don’t want to lose ground in search and with your customers. Need help getting started? Give us a call and check out our web development and support services.