Nothing gets people scared quite like adding “geddon” to the end of a word. 2015 has already seen one such example: mobilegeddon. Haven’t heard of it? Don’t worry, many people haven’t. And if you’re worried you’ve somehow missed the apocalypse, you can breathe a sigh of relief.
Google announced earlier this year that they would be releasing a new algorithm on April 21 designed to make mobile-friendly websites more accessible to search options on mobile devices. As with any big news stories from a large tech company, many tech types went crazy. From mid-February until the end of April, people speculated the sky falling in on search engine marketing. To quote Bill Murray from Ghostbusters, folks predicted “…human sacrifice, dogs and cats living together, mass hysteria!”
And when April 21st rolled around, did we get doomsday? Not quite. It is still a bit too early to tell how mobile-unfriendly sites have fared with this new update, but many people speculate that there will be clear winners and losers. However, it turns out that Google saw a 4.7% increase in mobile-friendly sites and site updates during March and April. Apparently, there was enough of a panic from website designers to at least make an effort to become more mobile-ready.
You may be wondering, “What does it mean to be mobile-friendly?” Chances are you probably already know that answer from using your smartphone to search on Google. According to imforza.com, a web development firm, a mobile-friendly site normally follows these elements:
- Navigation has been simplified and clearly laid out to make page/post selection easy
- Design elements have been compressed, replaced or removed to simplify usage
- Content has been laid out to allow for easier mobile consumption
- Phone numbers are set up for click-to-call functionality
- Addresses are set up to use the device’s map functionality
- Calls to action are set up to work with simple forms or the device’s email functionality
What almost everyone can agree on is that this update is just the beginning. In fact, Google reported this month that they are experiencing more mobile searches than desktop searches “…in 10 countries including the US and Japan.” However, these results don’t match a Comscore report, which reports that smartphones saw a total amount of web searches for Q4 2014 of 12.6 billion, compared to 45.5 billion for desktop computers. This could either mean that either the Google or Comscore report is wrong, or mobile search is growing REALLY quickly.
Not sure if your site is mobile-friendly? You can check that here: https://www.google.com/webmasters/tools/mobile-friendly/. This site, run by Google, analyzes your website and can tell you whether or not your website is mobile-friendly. If Google recognizes that your site isn’t mobile-friendly, it will give you reasons as to why, such as “text too small to read” or “links too close together.” It even gives you a quick snapshot of what your site looks like on a mobile device. It is a really awesome tool.
Becoming mobile-friendly seems to be the inevitable path that websites need to take to stay relevant. If your website is not mobile friendly, there are three primary options that can be used to move it in a more mobile-friendly direction.
- The first is to develop a mobile app. Apps can be very expensive, and for many companies mobile apps do not make too much sense. They also require a lot of work to develop and launch.
- The second option is to create a mobile-only website. A prime example of this is Huffington Post. Their desktop URL is huffingtonpost.com, but if you search for the site on your mobile phone, the URL is huffpost.com. Much like the mobile app option, this takes a great deal of time to develop, but it is cheaper to produce. A mobile-only website is a good option if your current website is totally user-unfriendly to mobile searchers.
- The third option, and the one that many companies choose to pursue, is to create a responsive website. Responsive websites keep the same URL, but the site itself recognizes when it is being accessed by either a computer or a mobile device. However, if your website is designed to deliver an aesthetic-heavy experience (i.e. pictures and colors) or your website is very complex, the responsive site may not be the best option.
The new Google algorithm for mobile search is here to stay. If making sure your website is mobile-friendly is not somewhere in your upcoming plans, it is definitely time to think about doing so. Losing out on potential traffic is one thing, but at the rate it appears to be going, mobile search will soon overtake desktop search, if it hasn’t already.