Yes, Really. Starting this past Monday Google announced it will use ‘mobile-friendliness’ as part of its ranking criteria.
Why You Need a Mobile-Friendly Website
Just think about the last time you looked up a website on your smartphone that wasn’t mobile friendly and you already know why. Mobile sites have a lower bounce rate (the term for when people look up a site and leave after seeing one page). The top reasons for that? The page is hard or impossible to read or the navigation doesn’t work well. Because of this, we’ve been advising clients to switch to responsive or mobile-friendly websites. But on Feb. 28, 2015, Google came right out and said that sites that are not responsive will be actively downgraded.
“Starting April 21, we will be expanding our use of mobile-friendliness as a ranking signal. This change will affect mobile searches in all languages worldwide and will have a significant impact in our search results.”
Mobile-Friendly Websites to Rank Better in Mobile Search
Any digital cowboy roaming the technological plains in 2015 can see that them’s fightin’ words, but may not know exactly what having a responsive or mobile-friendly website means. Lots of people aren’t sure about that, so let’s clarify the confusion so you’ll know what kinds of sites Google is hog-tying—er, downgrading.
A Responsive Website is Not a Separate Mobile Site
Mobile sites geared mainly for smartphones started to become popular about two or three years ago. Companies were creating sites for mobile devices and the .mobi domain came onto the scene as an option to have a separate website just for mobile users. This turned out to be costly and confusing—and now that approach is completely outdated. What you need now is a single website that has the same or almost the same content but formats it differently depending on the device the viewer is using at the time. That’s what a responsive or mobile-friendly site does.
And don’t let anyone convince you of a quick-fix mobile-friendly solution. Some marketers have been telling clients that all a site needs to be mobile friendly is larger text or code that redirects users to a mobile webpage. They’re wrong.
How Can I Tell if My Website is Responsive?
Take a look at this simple video that shows you how to use your desktop browser to test your website to see if it’s responsive.
Even Better, Make It Retina Ready
While we’re on the subject of mobile friendliness, you should also look into converting to a retina ready responsive website. Doing so ensures that people see high-resolution images when they view your site on a high- or retina-resolution device. Not switching to a retina-ready site might make it look blurry on advanced devices.
How Do I Convert My Site to Responsive?
A traditional website shows the same graphics and HTML to the browser regardless of screen size or resolution. A retina ready responsive site serves code or script to the browser, and that changes the layout the browser shows.
Because the code or script to do this has to be carefully tested across many devices and is dependent on the right version and type of code used, it’s not a simple thing to migrate the web content over. In a content management system (CMS) like WordPress, you can change the theme pretty easily, but often this doesn’t automatically make all of the adjustments you need.
And it takes time. We find it takes a developer about 15 to 30 hours of work to migrate a typical site to a mobile-friendly site with a similar theme—and sometimes it takes longer, depending on the number features or plugins and customizations made. Usually you won’t end up with exactly the same look you had, but the new look is almost unanimously agreed to be better.
Unfortunately, there isn’t a one-size-fits-all answer for this, but all in all, it’s worth the time and trouble to make sure your site doesn’t get overlooked on those vast technological plains. If you have questions, please feel free to write firstname.lastname@example.org.