Over the past couple of years there’s been a steady move towards mobile. It’s clear that we’re using smartphones and tablets more than we ever have. This trend hasn’t gone unnoticed by Google, which recently changed its search algorithm to prioritise mobile-friendly websites. Microsoft’s search engine Bing has followed suite and will start giving responsive sites a higher ranking in search results. But what does this change mean for businesses?
Google considers a website to be mobile friendly if “text is readable without tapping or zooming, tap targets are spaced appropriately, and the page avoids unplayable content or horizontal scrolling”. We’re all familiar with sites you view on your mobile where you have to pinch and zoom to read the text, or you try to click a button but keep clicking the wrong one because they’re too close together. These sites aren’t considered responsive, in that they don’t adapt to the smaller screen of a mobile device.
Now, Google says the update only affects searches on mobile devices, but businesses shouldn’t breathe a sigh of relief just yet. Research from Irish web-analytics firm StatCounter show that we are increasingly using our smartphones to access the web; the figure has jumped from 13% of web activity made via smartphones just two years ago to 33% today (tablet web use stands at around 10%). And what’s more, over half of Irish SMEs (54%) don’t have a mobile-friendly website, according to a survey by the IEDR (.ie Domain Registry).
This change could have a major impact on smaller SMEs who rely on new customers every day to drive business. According to a survey conducted by Google, four out of five consumers use search engines to search for local businesses, and 88% of these use a smartphone to do so. The survey shows that these smartphone users are typically looking for a local business’ address, opening hours and directions, and 18% of these local searches lead to sales.
What happens if you don’t have a mobile-friendly website?
Well, you simply won’t show up on the first few pages of search results, which means you’re all but invisible to these consumers who are actively looking for local businesses.
So what should SMEs do? First things first, you should check to see if your site, or rather, the individual pages of your site, are considered mobile friendly. Google has developed a free online tool that makes it easy to check. Simply enter your URLs into the box and Google will let you know how your site fares.
If your site fails this test the next step is to think about updating your site. You’ll need to talk with your developer about this and make sure they understand how important it is for your site to be responsive to mobile devices.
Once you’ve updated your site “we will automatically re-process (i.e., crawl and index) your pages” says Google. And you can speed up that stage too – by using Fetch as Google with Submit to Index you can ask Google to re-crawl your URLs and then your pages will be treated as mobile friendly in its search rankings.
Connectivity trends are key drivers in this mobile surge: as mobile broadband speeds continue to increase and WiFi access points continue to pop up around the country, the mobile device will become an even bigger factor in how consumers find your business online. All of this means that SMEs who want to be found online will need to embrace this mobile trend or risk becoming invisible.