Google announced its mobile-friendly website policy and it has serious implications for anyone who relies on being found online, and specifically on a mobile device. Some announcements are bigger than others and this one is a doozie.

Mobile-friendly websites win the day

Here’s a direct quote from the Google blog:

Starting April 21, we will be expanding our use of mobile-friendliness as a ranking signal. This change will affect mobile searches in all languages worldwide and will have a significant impact in our search results. Consequently, users will find it easier to get relevant, high quality search results that are optimized for their devices.

What Does the Mobile-Friendly Website Policy Mean to You?

Simply put, if your website is not a mobile-friendly website you are unlikely to appear on the first page of any search. But there is an upside: if you DO have a mobile-friendly website and your competitors do not, well, you can see where that’s going…

The bottom line this—if your business relies on your website in any way, there a significant upside to addressing this mobile-friendly website issue (and serious downside if you don’t). The good news is that it’s easy to check your current status and there are a couple of ways to fix the problem, which don’t have to break the bank to implement.

Check Your Website

Checking your website’s mobile friendliness is pretty straightforward using Google’s handy online tool—go to http://bit.ly/1N5ksqI and enter your URL into the box provided.

Is my website mobile friendly?

Here’s an example of the response you will get if you passed the test. I’d show you a failed result but that means we would have to pick on someone, which doesn’t seem very friendly—mobile or otherwise…

Mobile-friendly website test results

Whew—we passed—thank goodness 😉

Google’s Comment on Mobile-friendly Websites:

A page is eligible for the “mobile-friendly” label if it meets the following criteria as detected by Googlebot:

  • Avoids software that is not common on mobile devices, like Flash
  • Uses text that is readable without zooming
  • Sizes content to the screen so users don’t have to scroll horizontally or zoom
  • Places links far enough apart so that the correct one can be easily tapped

For full details go to http://bit.ly/1CMoZLR

2 Ways to Achieve a Mobile-Friendly Website

You can achieve mobile friendliness in one of two ways, the pros and cons of each are summarized below:

  1. Develop a responsive website
  2. Have a separate mobile site
Responsive Design

A responsive website looks like a regular website on a computer but when viewed from a mobile device it rearranges itself so that it makes sense on a phone or tablet.

Imagine a website with 3 images horizontally on a computer—if these remained horizontal on a phone they would be tiny. It would be hard to read and very hard to click any links.

Responsive design websites detect the mobile device and then stack these 3 images vertically so the viewer can scroll up and down (much better ☺).

Computer View

123horiz

Mobile View (Responsive)

123vert

Mobile Websites

A mobile website a separate website which is presented to any mobile device. Although this is likely to be the less expensive short-term solution it also comes with considerable drawbacks, for example: now you have 2 sites to maintain, and if it isn’t set up correctly it could potentially split the SEO value of your site into two making both site less “findable”.

Here a short video from Google’s Matt Cutts that explains the differences and the SEO issue in more detail.

How to Avoid the Mobile-Friendly Website Pain

At the end of the day, if your site is not responsive you will need to bite the bullet at some point—so why wait? If you act sooner rather than later you might even get a jump on the competition. On the other hand, if you need to act fast, or have a serious budget constraint, the mobile website may be a good stop-gap measure.

First, check your current status at http://bit.ly/1N5ksqI

Next, if you do not have a mobile-friendly website give us a call on (703) 988 9896 (or email)—we’ll take a look at your site and point you in the right direction.

Simon Turner
CEO, Ocean 5 Strategies