You’re at a friend’s house and you want to go to a restaurant. You aren’t familiar with the area, so you use the Google app on your phone to search “restaurants nearby.” You see two promising Mexican options and decide to look at the menus, but one of them makes you zoom and pinch the screen to read it. You close out of it and decide to go to the restaurant with the menu that’s easier to access. Your choice had nothing to do with the actual food, but depended on how accessible the restaurant’s website was from you phone.
This situation is exactly what Google is trying to avoid by implementing their newest search engine algorithm.
In the past, Google listed all search results the same way, no matter what device the user searched on. With the rise of smartphones, they started demoting the rank of sites that weren’t mobile friendly. Now, Google has taken it one step farther. Instead of only docking points from sites that aren’t mobile-friendly, it ranks mobile-friendly sites higher than desktop-only sites, because whether or not your site is mobile friendly is now a significant factor in determining its ranking. However, this is only true for those searching on mobile devices, not including tablets.
This change is notable because it puts an importance on mobile-friendly web design that we haven’t seen before. Theoretically, if your site is mobile-friendly and your competitor’s isn’t, you will have the advantage in mobile searches.
So how do you know if your site is mobile friendly?
The best way to know is to check out the Google Mobile-Friendly Test, which will tell you if your site fits Google’s specifications. Google accepts a page as mobile-friendly if it, among other things, has text that can be read without zooming and avoids software that’s not common on mobile devices, like Flash. You can also use Google Webmaster tools for a more in-depth look at your site and its specific pages.
If your site isn’t mobile-friendly, you have a few options.
There are three different ways your site can be mobile-friendly.
- Responsive Web Design (RWD) is what Google recommends you implement if your site isn’t already mobile friendly. This method allows you to use the same URL across all devices, but the way your information is displayed changes with the size of the screen.
- Hosting separate mobile URLs is when you would go to www.example.com on a desktop, but m.example.com on a mobile device. This method works, but it requires a lot of redirects and twice as many webpages.
- Dynamic serving is similar to RWD in that it allows you to use the same URL across devices, but it loads different HTML for different screens, which is a lot of work for your developer.
Now more than ever, it’s important to have a site that’s easily navigated on mobile devices. Not only will it improve your site rank, but it will also prevent consumers who visit your site from getting frustrated and clicking away, or visiting the other, less awesome Mexican restaurant just because they could actually read their menu.