It's time to make your website mobile-friendly

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It's time to make your website mobile-friendly

People are increasingly searching the web on tablets and smartphones, and there's a big mistake you can make that might mean your site won't appear in their results.

Back in April, Google started taking into consideration the mobile-friendliness of sites when ranking the results for mobile searches. That makes sense, because almost everyone uses search results immediately: if they search on a mobile, they'll look at one or more of the results there and then. So as Google expressed it, the change makes it easier for people "to get relevant, high quality search results that are optimized for their devices."

This didn't immediately reduce the rankings of sites that weren't mobile friendly. The so-called 'Mobilegeddon' predicted by some people - perhaps largely SEO specialists and web design companies hoping for extra business - didn't happen.

But there are indications that the change is having a slow burn effect, with previously high-ranking but non-mobile-friendly starting to slip down the results.

For example, US consulting firm Stone Temple found that for a certain set of searches, mobile-friendly pages were 50 percent more likely to gain ranking than those that were non-mobile-friendly, and were almost half as likely to lose ranking.

Mobile friendliness is now known to affect mobile search results, and so businesses need to make sure that their sites conform to Google's idea of what constitutes 'mobile friendly' unless they are prepared to suffer a drop in mobile search traffic.

Fortunately, Google has provided a quick and easy test of whether a particular page is mobile friendly. Just type or paste the URL into the Google Developers Mobile-Friendly Test and click the Analyze button, and in a few seconds you'll get a yes/no verdict.

But what do you do if pages on your site fail this test?

If you get very little traffic from Google (unlikely, and if that's the case you probably need to do something about it!) or few of your visitors are using mobile devices, there's little reason to hurry. But if you do rely on Google and it's bringing you a high proportion of mobile traffic, then if you haven't already seen a downturn, you probably will.

NB: Mobile friendliness is just one of the 'signals' that determine Google ranking, and it would be misleading to suggest that a page's ranking will plummet just because it isn't mobile friendly. But if everything else is equal, a mobile-friendly page will do better <I>in mobile searches</I> than one that isn't.

If you do need to make changes and you built and manage the site in-house, study Google's guide to mobile-friendly websites and take the recommended steps. That could be as simple as updating the CMS to the current version or just adopting a mobile-friendly theme. 

But if the site was developed for you and your business has no real expertise in the area, it's probably simplest to go back to the developer and find out how much it's going to cost to make it mobile-friendly. While that developer should be best placed to know what's required, this could be an opportunity to make sure you're not paying more than you had to for a good job. After all, if you wanted to renovate your bathroom you wouldn't necessarily go back to the plumber that worked on it originally.

While you're at it, this could be a good opportunity to make any other changes your site needs. Rather than merely making the existing design work better on mobiles, perhaps you should completely rework the site using responsive design principles? Will parallax design make your site more eyecatching? Should you adopt the flat look to fit in with Apple, Google and Microsoft? If your old site was built in the era when the received wisdom was that users would rather click to another page than scroll up or down, perhaps it's time for a long-scroll redesign? And you might incorporate some large, high-quality photos and videos to give a more contemporary impression than that given by those old, postage stamp sized ones.

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