Google's new mobile search rules explained
Fact: If your website is not mobile friendly you’re highly likely to see a significant drop in traffic over the next few weeks. Here’s why.
It’s been coming for a long time. We started building ‘responsive by default’ in 2011, meaning our sites are mobile friendly unless there’s a very good reason for them not to be.
Changes to Google’s search algorithms have now sealed the deal in terms of the importance of having a fully mobile friendly website.
As of 21st April, the new ranking system will actively prioritise ‘mobile friendly’ websites in its search results—on smaller mobile devices specifically. Search results on desktop and tablets are not affected.
Basically, if you search for something on a smartphone you will only see results for mobile friendly websites, at least for the first couple of pages—non mobile friendly results will be pushed to the back of the queue. As 92% of clicks are from the first page, that makes those sites pretty much doomed for mobile search based traffic. For full information, check out Google's FAQ about the changes.
Here’s an example
In the last 30 days we’ve had 10,737 unique visits (now called ‘Sessions’) to our website. Of those 2,576 visitors were using a smartphone. Under the new algorithm, we’d have lost those visitors (24% of our total number) if our site was not mobile friendly.
You might find that your mobile visitor stats aren’t that high, so it’s no big deal, right? Wrong. In 2014 UK mobile internet usage increased by 69% over the previous year, accounting for 23.2% of total internet traffic [source]. It’s clear, as mobile devices continue to become more embedded into people's lives, these numbers are only going in one direction; up. Many of the worlds largest websites are already reporting mobile usage overtaking desktop.
Is my site mobile friendly?
It’s really simple to test if your site will be affected. Simply search for your site now on a mobile device. Seriously, do it now. If you see the ‘mobile friendly’ label, you’re all set and ready for the changes.
If you don’t see the label, it’s very likely that your site will soon disappear from search rankings on smartphones.
You can check this another way too. Head on over to Google’s Mobile-friendly test site and pop your website address in the box.
My site is not mobile friendly, how do I fix it?
If your website does not have the ‘mobile friendly’ label in a search result, or fails the test then you need to take action.
In most cases you should make your website ‘responsive’. This term relates to the way a website responds to changes to the width of the web browser you’re using—the smaller the device, the narrower the browser window. You can see this in action by resizing this browser window. You’ll see how our website changes to fit the window perfectly.
It is possible to ‘retrofit’ your current website to make it responsive, but in our experience non-responsive websites tend to be a number of years old, so it’s probably wise to consider having a new website built.
Whether you choose to use a freelancer or an agency to build you a responsive website, be sure to ask for some examples of previous projects they’ve worked on. You could even run them through the mobile-friendly test to make sure they know what they're doing.
If you’d like to talk more about the impact of these changes on your website or if you need an agency to fix your problems, feel free to speak to us. We’d love to hear from you.