Google is known for regularly updating its algorithms, and although many webmasters may chunter to themselves about another Google ‘hurdle’ to address, let’s face facts – Google wants to provide the best service to its users.
The next update coming our way will take place on 21st April 2015 – on this day Google adds mobile-friendliness as a ranking sign.
“This change will affect mobile searches in all languages worldwide and will have a significant impact in our search results.”
The message is clear – if you haven’t a mobile-friendly website, now is the time to get one.
The Supporting Data
You may think that the majority of your customers access your website via a desktop computer so your rankings won’t be affected, but don’t be too complacent. A study by Global Web Index (GWI) in Q3 2014 – which covered 32 markets equating to an impressive 90% of global internet users – found that 80% of adults own a smart phone and 75% of them use it to access the internet; 50% own a tablet and 37% of them use it to surf the net.
These numbers have risen considerably in the past few years and show no sign of slowing. Many people continue to use fixed computers such as laptops and computers, but for the 16 to 24 age group a perhaps unsurprising 40% of their online time is via a mobile device (when was the last time you saw a young adult without a mobile phone grasped in their hand/ to their ear / in front of their eyes?) – although this number decreases to 13% for the over 55’s.
However if your target market is a mature one, do you really want your website to rank poorly for the 13% who are looking for your products or services via their trusty smart phone or tablet?
If you have a desktop website but no mobile-friendly website, you need to consider your options:
Responsive Website – this is where your desktop website HTML code is sent to all devices – mobile or fixed – but the browser is instructed to ‘render’ the page ie. modify the page size and layout to fit the device it is being viewed on.
Dynamic Serving Website – a separate design is created for the mobile user but the desktop URL is retained. Depending on whether a mobile device or fixed device is in use, the ‘user agent’ dictates whether the user sees a custom made mobile-friendly page or the desktop page.
Separate Mobile Website – the desktop website exists and a separate mobile website is created with an equivalent but separate domain. A different HTML code is then served to desktops and mobile devices, using user-agent detection.
There are different pro’s and con’s for the 3 options above and it’s important to consider your existing website and what kind of customers you want to attract.
For example if your desktop website is on the large side and has a lot of complex functionality such as a detailed search function or step-by-step application form, it’s going to be very tricky to create a responsive website design that actually works and provides the mobile user with a good web experience. And that fails to meet the objective as Google will look unfavourably on a website that doesn’t help the mobile user.
If you opt to serve website content in response to user agent, bear in mind that the list of user agent strings will need to be regularly maintained to include releases of new mobile models – not always easy to find when a new device slips into the market place without a loud fanfare.
An if you create a new domain for your mobile website, you’ll have two separate websites to manage and update – more work for you, but the advantage is that the mobile site will be specifically designed for the mobile user and provide the experience that they expect.
It may seem complicated, but we can give you sensible and pragmatic advice on what type of mobile website would suit you and your business – just get in contact with us if you don’t want to see your website site rankings dipping during mobile searches come the 21st April.
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