Expanded Role Starting April 21, 2015
In February 2015, Google made an important website mobility announcement on their Webmaster Central Blog of their official position on the impact of mobile websites in search results. Starting April 21st, mobile-friendliness will have an expanded role as a search ranking signal in mobile searches.
In their words, mobile-friendliness will have “a significant impact in our search results.” Their goal is to make it easier for users to get relevant, high-quality search results on their mobile devices.
Google, as a rule, does not openly discuss the 100’s of ranking signals and algorithms they use to determine a website’s position in the search results. They usually speak in generalities and best practices. The reason is obvious – that would provide a formula for spammers to spoof them.
Occasionally, as with this announcement, they make things crystal clear. If your website is not mobile, you will suffer in mobile search results.
Effect of Mobile Friendliness on Non-Mobile Search
While it is clear that you will not rank well in mobile search, what about Google search on other platforms? The Google announcement specifically states mobile search. It will not affect search on desktop and notebook computers. However, a growing number of users accesses your website via a mobile platform, so this is becoming a moot point.
Based on a study in July 2012 that showed expanding mobile use, along with a widespread dissatisfaction among users due to lack of mobile-friendliness with websites, Google started usingmobility as a ranking factor.
The key takeaway of this study is that a growing number of users were using mobile to access websites, which led to predictions that mobile use would overtake “fixed access” in 2014. On August 21, 2014 this came to be with comScore’s U.S. Mobile App Report declaring that “the days of desktop dominance are over.”
Even if Google limits this ranking factor strictly to mobile search, what is the point of ranking high in desktop search when the majority of your website visitors are searching or accessing your website, from a mobile device?
This is easy to determine by viewing your Google Analytics data. It will tell you how many of your website visitors are mobile users. It is a good way to plan the timing of converting your website to mobile, but consider this an inevitable event sometime in the future.
Specific Steps to address Website Mobility
The first step, as is always the case, is to test. You might already know your website isn’t mobile, but to assess the impact from Google’s eyes, use their free tool. Once you confirm what you probably already knew, then what?
You have two choices. You can create a separate mobile website or convert your existing website to a responsive website design. This has the advantage of eliminating a second domain or sub-domain, and this is a better SEO approach.
There is a wide array of mobile website builders that make it fairly easy to create a separate mobile website, but there will be a monthly charge to maintain them.
Although there will be costs associated with upgrading or redesigning your website to make it responsive, you also get the benefit of having an up-to-date website using the latest technologies. This will give your website a more modern look-and-feel and very likely bring significant gains in feature and function.
If you currently have a WordPress website, an update is fairly straight forward and you will not have to re-enter your content. It essentially “re-skins” your current website. If you do not use WordPress, then you probably have an even older website – one that cannot be edited by you – and your gains will be even greater with a redesign.
Whether you use a mobile website builder or opt for a website redesign, it is no longer a question – you need to make your website mobile friendly.