It’s been a hot topic for webmasters and SEO analysts this past month. It’s been discussed in widely-circulated blog posts and given the ominous nickname ‘Mobilegeddon’. However, those outside of the SEO world may not have heard a whole lot about Google’s upcoming mobile-friendly update.
Here are the basics that you should know, especially if you’re a business owner: on April 21st, Google will implement an algorithm update that will give a website’s mobile-friendliness additional weight as a ranking signal. Mobile usability is already a factor in page rankings, but it’s about to become more important than ever.
Essentially, if you have a website that is optimized for mobile devices (i.e. looks as good on a phone or tablet as it does on a desktop computer), you should rank higher in Google’s search results than a competitor who hasn’t optimized their site for mobile.
Worried Mobilegeddon will negatively affect your business?
So what’s Google’s rationale for the update? It boils down to improving the user experience. More than 64% of American adults now own a smartphone, and 34% of those people use the internet more frequently on their phone than on any other device, according to a Pew Research Center report. Google wants to ensure users are getting search results that display well and work properly on any device.
If you’re starting to worry that your company’s website is going to be banished to the far reaches of the internet, read on to learn how you can optimize your site before April 21st.
How Do You Know If Your Site Is Mobile-Friendly?
You may already know that your site is mobile-friendly—or that it isn’t. On the other hand, you may be saying to yourself, ‘Didn’t I have a web designer optimize my site last year? Am I good to go?’
If you’re unsure whether Google’s new update is going to be kind to your site, the first thing you should do is put your site to Google’s Mobile-Friendly Test. All you have to do is enter a web page URL, and Google will tell you if it meets the requirements for being mobile-friendly. Be sure to plug in multiple pages, as mobile-friendliness is determined at the page rather than site level.
Here are some common issues that might cause one or more pages of your site to fail the Mobile-Friendly Test:
• Text is too small to easily read on a smartphone screen
• Your content exceeds the screen width
• Links are too close together to easily click on a small touchscreen
• Your mobile viewport is not properly configured (you can read more about this here)
If Your Site Isn’t Mobile-Friendly, What’s Next?
If your site doesn’t fare well on mobile devices, stay calm and talk to an experienced web designer. There are a few different ways you can make your site mobile-friendly: you can create a mobile-only site, use responsive design, or use adaptive design.
It’s also possible to develop an app, which users download and open to access content from your site, rather than opening a web browser on their phone. While there are some benefits to creating an app, this is more of an add-on than a priority. Focus on the website first.
A mobile-only, or m-dot site, contains many of the same elements as your full site, but is a separate website that loads when a web user clicks through to your site from their mobile device. This stripped-down site typically has simpler navigation for the benefit of people using smaller screens.
Pros: Mobile-only sites are relatively easy to build and typically provide a good user experience. Because they are separate from the main site, content can be tailored for mobile viewers. They are also usually (but not always) the most affordable type of mobile-friendly site to build.
Cons: When you create a mobile site that is separate from your main site, you’re essentially doubling the site maintenance with which you have to keep up.
Responsive Web Design (RWD)
Responsive design takes all elements on a web page and resizes them based on the resolution of the screen. If you’re on a computer, you can test out a responsive design site (The Leverage Marketing site is one) by resizing your browser—the page you’re on will expand or shrink so that the same elements are always visible.
Pros: RWD is the easiest mobile-optimized format for Google to crawl and index. It’s also flexible (it works well with all screen sizes) and gives your site a consistent design across platforms.
Cons: RWD tends to have a slower load time than mobile-only, especially when it comes to image-heavy sites. Images need to be optimized for all devices in order to reduce the load time so that users don’t get impatient and leave.
Adaptive Web Design (AWD)
Adaptive design detects what kind of device and operating system you’re using and tells the server to use different layouts for different devices. The main difference between AWD and RWD is that with AWD, the layout decision is made on the server side rather than the client side.
Pros: Because the layout decision is made on the server side, load times are faster on the client side. AWD also works well with a wider range of phones—including older and low-end mobile phones– because it uses more sophisticated device detection scripts. This won’t make a huge difference for most businesses, but may be beneficial if you are trying to reach developing markets outside of the US.
Cons: As the most complex mobile optimization option, AWD is also typically the most expensive. It requires a large budget and an experienced team of developers to implement, so it may not be a feasible option for all businesses.
Still Not Sure How to Optimize Your Site?
If you’re still not sure what kind of mobile optimization will be most beneficial to your business, talk to one of our web designers about your business goals and how you want customers or clients to use your website. We work together with our clients to come up with a design that fits their brand and makes the user experience positive on all devices.