In reality, nobody can predict the answer to something that hasn’t happened yet. In recent weeks I’ve heard it all from “Mobilegeddon” to the worst scare mongering ever.
And this isn’t an article for other web designers, it’s for the business owners who want a plain and simple, hype free view on the changes coming up on Google mobile search. Then ways to size up the potential impact.
Edit (02-04-15): Follow me on Facebook or Twitter, or keep a close eye on this blog to find out the affects of these ranking changes a few days after the dust has settled on #Mobilegeddon, as I track the rankings of 5 websites.
Edit (21-04-15): Nothing yet, rolling out right now according to reliable sources but could take a week to appear. When I find anything worth noting you’ll see it here on the blog.
First off …… What’s happening April 21st?
In a nutshell, Google are going to be placing more importance on showing mobile friendly websites in their mobile search results. If you want to read the official word in more detail from Google themselves you can find it here… (2-3 minute read at most)
Does this really concern me?
For some businesses, only a very small percentage of their site visits will be affected. For others, you definitely want to take notice of what’s happening.
Especially if you’re in a trade where a high percentage of customers and clients use a mobile to find you, plumbers, electricians, most definitely trades like locksmiths.
If I have water pouring into my living room, or I’m locked out, the last thing I’m going to do is look for a laptop or desktop when I have a mobile phone in my pocket.
In reality you should be mobile friendly regardless, it just makes good sense seeing the rise in use of different devices but all you want is the bottom line on the current situation.
3 Quick steps to find out how important this is to you
1) Pick up a mobile phone, search your business name on Google, do you have ‘Mobile Friendly’ next to your business in the search results? If so, you’re safe….. kind of, don’t stop reading quite yet.
In the screen grab you’ll see an example of this for one of my clients.
2) If you haven’t got a mobile device handy, visit https://www.google.com/webmasters/tools/mobile-friendly/ to test your website.
3) This highly recommended third step still applies even if you think you are safe: If you have access to Google Analytics (or any other analytics program), log into your account: http://www.google.com/analytics/
Then find your way in the left hand menu to ‘Audience’ > ‘Mobile’ > ‘Overview’
You are looking for a large noticeable difference between ‘Desktop’ and ‘Mobile’ bounce rates. If you’re not sure what the bounce rate is, it’s the percentage of site visitors who enter your site without visiting another page.
There are other factors to take into consideration when it comes to site performance but this works well as an initial top level view on issues before digging deeper.
In the screenshot above it shows stats for one of my personal affiliate projects. Overall this will give you a very quick way to spot if you have issues with your website on mobile devices.
As you can see there’s no major jump between mobile and desktop as the site is mobile friendly (I wouldn’t build it any other way). So from this point on without going too deep I would normally drill into the tablet and mobile stats to see if there’s a large jump in bounce rate for any device brands in particular, then run further tests.
For most, with mobile friendly sites this is the point you breathe a sigh of relief.
4) Optional 4th step, look at your competitors, do they have ‘Mobile Friendly’ next to their site in the mobile search results? Are you in the majority or minority? Is this an opportunity you can take advantage of?
The point everyone seems to be missing
Linked to step (3) above.
Google doesn’t buy your products or services, real people do. If you’re a local business owner you are almost certainly investing money in local advertising, or people are finding you via word of mouth. Mobile internet use will always be on the rise, so why not make changes for the good of your clients, not because of changes at Google HQ.
Google knows how important this is to people using their search engine so they’re taking appropriate action.
Likewise, all the client websites I’ve built since the early part of 2014 have been mobile as standard.
Even if you think you’re safe having ‘Mobile Friendly’ displayed next to your business in the search results, check your analytics and traffic data, even better if you are tracking conversions as you can directly tie a sales value to each device.
At the end of the day visitors to your site don’t want to see you just ticking boxes, it says to them you don’t really care. Not serving a visitor a with purposely thought out mobile layout is the same as just popping some stock photography and plain text on the internet and calling it a website.
Don’t think you’re in the clear just yet
In December last year I had a new client come to me and asked if I could take over the site build for his IT academy. Initially everything looked semi reasonable and it was just a case they were unhappy dealing with the previous company.
The site looked mobile friendly(ish) so thought this was going to be a simple wrap up of a site build.
That was until I ran some initial performance tests.
Holy cow!!! The homepage weighed in at over 3MB, granted, it was an extremely long graphics heavy page, and this was happening across the board on all the pages.
Only problem is, on a standard mobile device, 3MB for a web page really isn’t acceptable (it’s not even acceptable for desktop users) and that’s before you take the poor users on a capped data allowance into consideration. For 3MB over a regular 3G connection, give or take a couple of seconds you would be looking at a load time of 25-30 seconds.
In the end I managed to get the homepage to almost 25% of the original size with a load time a shade over 1 second, then all the inner pages to about 20% of the original with a super speedy sub one second load time, most around half a second.
The original issues were all down to the previous company loading everything but the digital equivalent of the kitchen sink into the website. So it ended up being a case of re-coding the website from the ground up.
This also relates to an article I produced about the current state of so called free or cheap websites. You might initially save a few hundred pounds getting things done on the cheap, but on the flip side this can impact on your sales.
In the end, how your site looks on a mobile device is only half the story, performance plays a big part, just like a talent show, someone might look the part but as soon as they open their mouth they’re booed off the stage.
A Final Word
Pleasing Google with ‘Mobile Friendly’ next to your site still might not be enough to make potential clients or customers reach for the phone or dig into their wallets.
If visitors are not being served the information they need, your business is not presenting a professional image or your site is taking too long to load it might as well say ‘Don’t Bother’ next to your business in the mobile search results.