7 Min Read
In less than a week, a Google mobile update will be implemented to its search algorithm that will start to favour mobile friendly websites over non mobile friendly websites.
Google has broken tradition and given advanced warning that they will be releasing this update. The fact they have done this indicates it could be one of their bigger updates, with some people predicting a bigger upset than Panda and Penguin. However, I’m going to refrain from agreeing or disagreeing until the update has been rolled out completely. As with many of Google’s large updates, it may take several days or even weeks to roll out and complete.
SEOs have been advising clients for a long time that they need a mobile friendly version of their website. Without it being a ranking factor, it often comes across as another way for agencies or design houses to extract more money from a client, but it has been sound advice for a long time regardless of it being a ranking factor or not.
I have had a look through a cross section of our clients, including retail, lead generation sites, B2B sites, B2C sites, large brands and small, taking a range of services from us and also doing activity themselves.
– Desktop – 55.81%
– Mobile – 28.92%
– Tablet – 15.27%
What the data shows us above, is that only around 55% of all website traffic comes in through a desktop. Every account I checked has had big increases over the last 12 months away from desktop towards mobile.
There are some activities and industries that can change this data. If you are very active on social media, for example, then you will have mobile as the top driver of traffic. If this is the case, ensure your mobile usability is being looked at as mobiles convert less than desktops for a variety of reasons.
We find that B2B websites will still have a very large percentage (around 70%) of visitors coming in through a desktop and that mobile traffic is less prominent.
The data above highlights the importance of having a mobile friendly website for your business, and as for Google, they can no longer ignore the search experience of 44% of their users.
If you haven’t already, you really need to start looking at how your website looks on a mobile device. Check out your analytics to see what traffic is coming to your website through a mobile device.
There are three main types of websites which I have gone through below:
Responsive – The website changes its design based on the size of a viewing point in a browser. The website uses a responsive framework which will produce an optimized layout for the user based on whether they are visiting on their desktop, tablet or mobile, all within one web build. This is the best option, and the only type of mobile sites we build at Digital Next. You shouldn’t have any issues with a responsive website.
Top Image, Desktop | Bottom Image, Smaller Viewpoint
Adaptive – An adaptive website refers to where designers will create several different designs for one site, based on set screen sizes – eg. desktop, tablet, mobile. The issue with this, was that the designs were fixed to the set screen and device sizes they were designed for. As technology rapidly progressed, the range of different screen sizes increased with it.
Due to the outdated nature of using adaptive web design, I don’t have any examples to screenshot
Dedicated Mobile Site – Going back to the old school is having a separate mobile website. Although it’s the oldest method of the three, I feel it’s a better option than having an adaptive website and still the best option depending on your website and industry. Large retail companies often have a dedicated mobile site. The site won’t change design based on the screen size, it will instead change URL based on the screen size it is loading on, so you will have m. or mobile. instead of the regular www. prefix and often have a link to ‘return to desktop site’.
Top Image, Desktop (http://www.johnlewis.com/) | Bottom Image, Mobile (http://m.johnlewis.com)
Let’s be clear here, Google’s update is about your website being ‘friendly’ on a mobile device and different screen sizes. It’s not an update that simply rewards people with a mobile site.
You can have a mobile website that Google determines is unfriendly and if this is the case, I expect you will suffer just as much as someone without a mobile friendly website.
Some of the common issues that a mobile site could face include:
• Text being too small
• Links being too close together
• Content being wider than the screen
There are a few ways to detect if your website is mobile friendly, but there are 2 ways of checking through Google.
Search your domain on a mobile – It’s basic and it works. Search for your domain on a mobile phone and Google has an indicator in the SERPS that states if your website is mobile friendly. The image on the right below is an example of a website that Google doesn’t label as mobile friendly. (I want to point out here that we have no affiliation with Pets at Home, they are simply an example.)
Use Google’s Mobile Friendly Tool – Google have had a mobile friendly tool available for quite a while on their website. https://www.google.com/webmasters/tools/mobile-friendly/
What you are looking for is the green tick at the top of the page. There may be recommendations and warnings on the page to consider, but if you have the green tick, then you should be ok.
A word of warning though, this tool only runs its tests on the page you ask it to and not the whole website. If you are testing your website, check a cross section of your website such as category, product or conversion pages.
So, we know that the Google mobile update will start to roll out the algorithm on the 21st and they have confirmed that mobile friendly websites will start to have an advantage. What this ultimately means, nobody will be certain of, but if your website is not mobile friendly, then I would expect that website to start dropping positions and losing visibility in the search results.
The one thing I am certain will not happen will be people getting penalties for not being mobile friendly. The term ‘Penalized’ and ‘Penalty’ are hugely overused. If your website isn’t up to scratch, you will not be penalized by Google, you just won’t rank as highly and there is a difference.
“Ensuring your users receive the same optimised browsing experience across multiple devices is essential, and responsive web design can help you achieve this. If you use responsive design to guarantee a good user experience each time someone visits your site, you’ll soon see an increase in visitors, which will in turn lead to an increase in sales, and a stronger web presence for your business in general.”
Adam Ramsden, Head of Creative
“Mobile adverts are the way the market is moving. Most people pick up their mobiles and check them constantly throughout a day, so making sure that your adverts are mobile friendly means that you can attack your market at every angle. Not everyone picks up their laptop and logs into their social media accounts every day. It is also much simpler to use and can be less expensive than desktop ads.”
Anthony Knowles, Head of Social Media
“Since mobile traffic has surpassed the traffic from desktops according to many reliable sources, I believe Google is heading in the right direction to enrich the user experience on mobiles. With an increase in the complexity of user journeys and an increase in the number cross device conversions, this update is indispensable. However the CPCs on mobile devices, which started to rise since the advent of enhanced campaigns, will continue to go higher and higher!”
Sherline Kumanan, Head of PPC
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