Maybe you’ve seen it on the news; maybe you’ve received an email from Google; or maybe this is the first you’ve heard of it!
As of April 21, 2015, Google is now giving search rank preference ON SMARTPHONES to sites it considers “mobile-friendly.”
What does this mean?
It means that if you are searching on a smartphone, Google is going to give preference to sites where you can easily read the content and navigate on a smartphone without zooming in or panning around.
IMPORTANT: This will have NO EFFECT on searches performed on tablets and desktops.
I am getting a lot of emails about this, and the first thing I need to tell you is: don’t panic. This change just happened today, and honestly, it will be weeks or even months before we really know the true consequences. But it is important, so here are the answers to what I assume are your burning questions:
Will my site disappear from Google if it’s not mobile-friendly?
No. No no no no. Your site will not be removed from search engine results. But, if you have competitors for certain search terms that you currently rank well for, and your competitors’ sites are mobile friendly while yours is not, it is possible, maybe even probable, that they will now rank higher than you on searches performed on smartphones. However, if you don’t really have any direct competition for your search terms, or people really don’t find you through Google searches anyway, then this change will not affect you much, if at all.
Do I have to have my whole site rebuilt to be “mobile-friendly”?
Not at all. There are two main ways of making a site mobile friendly.
One is to have a responsive site – the site you are on right now is responsive. If you narrow your browser window right now, you will see that my text does not get smaller; instead things just rearrange themselves to fit in the smaller width. Converting a non-responsive site to a responsive one really does require the site being rebuilt, and in many cases redesigned. It’s a big job.
The other, easier option is to have your content just styled differently on smartphones. I use a plugin that detects if a user is on a smartphone, and if so, it will display your content using different, simpler templates that I create for you, which show the content with no zooming.
Google will not give any preference to one method over another.
What should I do???
If you already have a responsive site or an an alternate mobile site, then sit back and relax. You are a trailblazer. Your job here is done.
If not, then first, consider your audience, how they view your site, and how they find your site. If your audience is likely to use their smartphones a lot (and honestly, more and more people are), and they are likely to search for you in Google first, and if there is some competition for whatever search term they might use — then you should prioritize making your site mobile friendly as soon as possible. It’s ok if it’s not this week or the next, but it should happen fairly soon.
If your audience is more likely to already know your URL, or to search for you by a unique name, then you should probably still eventually make your site mobile friendly, but it is not as urgent. If you never do, that’s ok, too. But with this change from Google, more and more sites are going to be making sure they are mobile-friendly, which people on smartphones appreciate. Plus, we are seeing now that searches on mobile devices are growing exponentially every year, while searches on desktops are declining. I would recommend putting “mobile-friendly” on your to-do list.
Or better yet, put it on MY to-do list, especially if you are one of my clients who opted out of a mobile version before, or whose site I built before “mobile-friendly” was really even a thing. Shoot me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org for a quote!
(Note, I am performing this service for WordPress sites only.)