Get Mobile, or Get Left Behind on Search

Advice from web design Santa Rosa geek: Get mobile, or get left behind in search results.

OK, the big word is out from Google. Bottom line: If your website isn’t mobile-friendly, you are definitely going to suffer when it comes to search results.

So, what happened, and what does it mean for website owners?

Google recently announced that it will be changing its search algorithms to favor websites that are mobile-friendly. That means that websites meeting Google’s criteria as being “mobile-friendly” will automatically rank higher than those that don’t.

This is updated news from April of 2015 when Google announced that mobile-friendly websites would get favorable treatment in searches on mobile devices.

But the algorithm update won’t just affect mobile search results—those searches conducted on a mobile device. Now it will affect the search results on ALL devices, including websites viewed on desktop computers.

Not Really a Surprise

People who watch Google, including web designers, search engine optimization (SEO) providers and others, had seen hints by the search giant before. Google has been encouraging website owners to make the switch to mobile for several years, and the “mobilegeddon” announcement last April was clear handwriting on the walls.

But why? There are two answers driving Google’s actions.

First, as the 600 lb. gorilla of Internet search, Google is watching out for their customers. In this case, their customers are the millions of users who come to Google’s pages to look for information. With 58% of all search volume now coming from mobile (Hitwise statistics), more people need user-friendly search results for their smart phones and tablets. That’s a compelling argument.

There is another reason. Just follow the money…

Remember that search results are prime advertising opportunities that drive Google’s revenue. As more people move to mobile search, Google needs to be where the eyeballs are going.

But Google isn’t the only one trying to attract our eyeballs. Google has a dominant share of the SEARCH market—around 73% of desktop globally and 95% of mobile and tablet (netmarketshare.com). But search isn’t the only place people see or click on ads. Facebook now dominates in the DISPLAY ad space—both mobile and desktop—and Google is struggling to regain its footing.

In this light, it’s easier to understand why Google is forcing the issue with mobile search. For Google, mobile search is a dominant and growing arena in which it can effectively compete for advertising dollars. Facebook’s mobile app, while an effective tool for the social medium, is not the default go-to place people choose when they want to find a product or service while on the move.

Not Mobile Yet? Not Sure?

If you’re one of the millions of business owners who have not yet switched your website to a mobile platform, time is growing short. Google didn’t announce a hard date for its conversion, but it is expected to phase in the new algorithm over the coming months. Without a mobile-friendly (or “responsive”) website, whatever position you held for your keywords in search pages will erode. Maybe drastically.

If you’re not sure whether your site is mobile-friendly, take a simple pinch test. Browse to your site on a smart phone. If you have to “pinch out” the page to zoom in, it probably doesn’t pass the test. A truly mobile-friendly website will respond to the edges the browser and display both text and images at reader-friendly size.

Google also considers links and action buttons, and has criteria to determine if they are also mobile-friendly.

Mobile Web Design: Santa Rosa, It’s Time

If search position is important to you and your site doesn’t measure up, then it’s time to talk to your web designer. Keep in mind that a mobile-friendly website alone is no guarantee that you will get favorable position in search. It’s an important factor in search engine optimization (SEO), although there are also many others. But without one, you can pretty much plan on falling to the bottom of the heap in search results.

Web design Santa Rosa geek Tim Smith writes about topics of interest to small business owners. For mobile web design, Santa Rosa business owners can contact him for a local appointment.