We hear a lot about responsive websites and are repeatedly being told that responsive websites are a good thing. But being responsive is about to get a whole lot more important with the latest change to Google’s search algorithm.
On April 21st Google will be rolling out a new mobile-friendly ranking algorithm that’s likely to have a huge impact on everybody’s website and how it is ranked by the search engine on mobile devices. The reason? This change in the algorithm will now log your website as mobile-friendly, or not; and there are no degrees of mobile-friendliness with this release. Google is responding to the changing way we use the web. In the UK last year 52% of visits to websites were from mobile devices and that figure is expected to continue rising rapidly.
The algorithm will start rolling out across the world in multiple languages on the 21st but will take a few days to a week to roll out globally. The algorithm will simply determine whether your site is mobile-friendly or not. Of course that’s not the only factor your site will be categorised on; there are still more than 200 different factors that determine your Google ranking (but don’t worry – it’s our job to worry about all those factors for you!). But if your site is not categorised as being mobile-friendly, you can expect to slip way down the list when people are searching on their devices.
How do you know if your website is mobile-friendly?
Step 1: Take out your phone and search for your website.
Step 2: Under the site address you’ll see the words ‘mobile friendly’ in grey text within your description snippet; if these words are missing, you should consider updating your site.
Step 3: You can also go to Google’s Webmaster tools site and put your web address into the search engine there. You’ll receive an immediate message telling you whether you are set up for mobile.
Google’s Mary Chen told a Google hangout audience recently: “When it comes to search on mobile devices, users should get the most relevant and timely results, no matter if the information lives on mobile-friendly web pages or apps.
“As more people use mobile devices to access the internet, our algorithms have to adapt to these usage patterns.”
What are the benefits of a responsive website?
A responsive site is able to deliver your content in a bespoke way. It will respond to any device, dynamically resizing to optimally display your site. A good responsive website will always deliver your content in bite-sized chunks, reducing clutter and focussing on the important information. That is better for the user and better for your business.
Making your site mobile-friendly
Here are three key steps to make your website mobile-friendly for Google’s search engine:
Step 1: Make it easy.
The guiding principle is, ‘Does this make users’ lives easier?’ Can users easily navigate their way around and find what they are looking for? Provide a unified experience across platforms.
Step 2: Measure the effectiveness of your website by how easily mobile customers can complete common tasks.
Work out what the most important and common tasks are for your customers on mobile devices. Those are the things that need to be easiest of all. .
Step 3: Select a mobile template, theme, or design that’s consistent for all devices.
In other words, use responsive web design.
As Alex Weller, Founder and Creative Director of Above Digital, says “We always take a “mobile-first” approach when building clients’ websites so the mobile-user perspective is at the heart of our design. These changes to Google’s algorithm support what we have always seen as the key elements in dynamic, accessible design.”
If you want more information from Google on how to make your site more mobile friendly, you can head to its own guide to mobile-friendly sites.
Alex Weller is the founder and CEO of Above Digital, a web strategy, design and development agency based in London. Above Digital’s clients include Wise Pensions, Goodstuff, Push Entertainment and EMS.