If you haven’t heard already, on April 21st, 2015, Google will be making a change to their algorithm that will affect websites that are not “mobile friendly”. This is a fairly vague term, so Google made a Mobile Friendly Website Testing Tool that takes the ambiguity out of the equation. The tool will list the problems the website has, and suggest corrective measures you can take to pass the test. Getting a B+ on this test isn’t good enough. It’s pass or fail.
Responsive design is the most common solution to this problem. The easiest way to think about responsive design is that the “design responds to the size of the display”. This is done with CSS rules that target certain screen size parameters, so that different rules apply to the same html code on different screen sizes.
Google’s mobile update change will only affect mobile search results, so before you panic, be sure you know how much traffic you get from mobile search. Go ahead and check, I’ll wait. If you are using Google Analytics, here’s where to look:
Acquisition >> All Traffic >> Source/Medium: google/organic
Then choose ‘Mobile (including tablet)’ for your Second Dimension
This website clearly needs to be mobile friendly, since more than half of its organic Google traffic is coming from mobile users. This number also represents almost a quarter of its overall traffic. HungryBurlington.com is a restaurant directory website designed for search engines. Looking at a more typical business website we can see that the same demographic slice is much smaller.
The Google mobile search audience on this website is 16%, though combined Google search is responsible for half of its traffic. Fortunately for this business, they already have a mobile friendly website, but if they didn’t, I would recommend they do it soon.
How soon do I need a responsive design website?
Take a look at your Google Analytics and see how much your mobile traffic has been increasing over time. Compare the last three months with the three months before that and see if the mobile share of your traffic is growing. Do this two or three more times moving back three months at a time and you will probably see that your mobile traffic is growing at about 5% – 10% every three months. If it’s growing faster than that, you should move quickly and get yourself a new website within weeks, not months. If it’s growing slower than that, I would still get it done before Thanksgiving.
Can I blow this off like I did with Google Plus?
No. Mobile search has been growing every year for at least the past 7 years and actually passed desktop traffic last year. Obviously every website is different, but I’ve never seen the stats of a website say that mobile use is decreasing over a three month period or longer. You need to ‘Get ‘er Done’. I still think you need to get that Google+ profile and business page done, but I’ll save that for another time.
But I don’t care about Google Search
I suppose you’re also writing the Great American Novel with invisible ink. Unless your website is intended for an audience that already knows you, you need to optimize your website for search. If you can’t find your business without using your business name, you need to optimize your website for search.