Why your website needs to be optimized for smartphone use.If you’ve avoided updating your website so that it performs better on mobile devices, Google is offering new incentive to get with the program.
In late April, Google started ranking mobile-friendly sites higher in searches conducted on smartphones. As the company puts it, the changes will have a “significant impact” on search results.
Small business owners, especially those in retail, need to take this seriously. The company says 77 percent of U.S. smartphone owners have used their devices to research a purchase or service.
How Can You Tell If Your Website Is Mobile-Friendly?
Google has created the Mobile-Friendly Test, a free online tool for checking your site. Just visit this link.
The tool will diagnose specific problems with your website—for example, if the text is too small to read, any links are too close together or the content is too wide for the screen. Google will provide a screenshot of what your site looks like on a typical smartphone, and it’ll suggest next steps for improving the site’s usability.
You may find that your website already passes the test. Or if your site runs on a major platform like WordPress, Joomla or Drupal, becoming compliant could be as simple as upgrading or replacing your theme.
The Mobile-Friendly Test won’t tell you if your place in the mobile search rankings will shift. You’ll need to conduct spot-checks, if you aren’t doing so already.
How Do I Make My Website ‘Mobile-Friendly’?
The company has written a guide that offers specific advice for bringing your website “up to code,” and it’s available at this website.
If you aren’t a website developer and won’t be digging into your site’s HTML, it’s still a good idea to look at the “Get Started” section, where Google explains what it generally wants to see. And it’s pretty simple: The company wants to help mobile users locate websites that are easy to use.
Google especially recommends using “responsive Web design”—a design technique that allows a website’s pages to automatically adjust to the user’s device. Instead of maintaining separate websites for mobile and desktop users, you have only one site that you need to manage.
What Will (and Won’t) Be Affected?
The update will mainly impact the “10 blue links,” what search experts call the first 10 organic results that Google returns. At
this point, it won’t affect the “local pack.”
What’s the local pack? If you search for “coffee,” the top of the results page will include links to a handful of local coffee shops, including how many stars Google reviewers gave them. On mobile search, the local pack also tells you how close each business is.
Being included in the local pack is very useful for small businesses, so it’s good news that Google’s search changes won’t affect that. (For now, at least.)
And remember, the update affects smartphones—not desktop, laptop or tablet computers.
Don’t use that as an excuse to put off working on your website, though. Smartphone users are a large and growing audience. Your business should build a website that makes them feel welcome.