This month Google announced a change in its search algorithm for searches made from mobile and tablet devices which will reward mobile-friendly websites with higher rankings. It is estimated to impact more sites than any of the previous major algorithm updates and is due to come into force on April 21 2015.
Mobile search volume is set to overtake desktop search volume any day now, so taking mobile-friendliness into account as a ranking factor is an important step in Google's aim to provide the optimal search results to its users.
And what's important for Google should be important to you too. As we pointed out when we discussed responsive design last year, charitable donations from mobile phones increased by 242% between 2011 and 2012, and in 2013 Justgiving reported that more users visited their site via mobile than on a desktop computer.
If your organisation suddenly stops appearing in search results when people are searching for information on your charity or cause, you are in danger of losing a vast amount of visitors, supporters and donors.
Let's look at an example. On average there are 1,300 monthly UK Google searches for the search term "charity gifts" and lots of organisations competing for the top Google spot for that term. But did you know that 56% of these searches take place on mobile and tablet devices? This information can be found using the Google Adwords tool.
Google already highlights whether a website is mobile-friendly and from 21st April this mobile-friendliness will have what Google refers to as a "significant impact " on the search results. Any high ranking websites not optimised for mobile will be affected, and it is yet to be seen exactly the impact this will have.
Websites built using responsive design should have nothing to fear from this latest update. To recap, responsive design means building a website which automatically adjusts to display well on whichever screen size and device are being used. In essence, it's what stops you from having to zoom, pinch and scroll back and forth when you view a webpage on your mobile phone. And as well as being useful to people viewing the pages, it also means organisations don't have to create individual websites for each different type of device.
This latest move from Google means that responsive and mobile sites will be rewarded with higher search rankings.
What action should I take?
So with that in mind, this is what you should do next to make sure your website won't be affected.
- Test your site for mobile-friendliness
- Follow the Google guidelines
1. Test your site for mobile friendliness
Google have provided a very simple way of doing this here:
Simply enter your web address, Google will analyse the page and provide feedback.
If your website is already mobile-friendly then great!
2. Follow the Google guidelines
If the results show that your site isn't mobile-friendly, google will direct you to resources which may help you to optimise your site for mobile. The resources given will depend on the structure and design of your website and the actions you will need to take could range from updating a few background files to a major redesign of your site to a responsive layout. Each website will be different, so the actions you need to take will be very specific to your site.
How much of my search traffic comes from mobile?
In addition to the above, it can also be useful to find out the volume of mobile search traffic to your website to assess the impact you can expect to see.
You can see the volume of mobile traffic to your site using Google Analytics. On the left hand menu bar choose: Audience > Overview > Mobile > Overview
This shows you the number of sessions (visits) by each device type.
You can then filter by a secondary dimension to see the traffic type, ie, what drives visitors to your website. This is split into direct, referral and organic (search) traffic. It's the organic traffic we're interested in here.
From the example below you can see that the search traffic from tablets accounts for 3.29% of visits and the search traffic from mobile is 3.73% of total traffic. This is the traffic that could be impacted by the Google change.
If your search traffic from mobile and tablet accounts for a considerable percentage of visitors to your site then urgent action will need to be taken.
If you've been putting off a move to a mobile-friendly website, then now is the time to act.
If your website is built in a mobile-friendly way, then you should have nothing to worry about. Alternatively, if you've been delaying a move to a responsive design, then Google may have forced you to stop putting it off.
Test your website for mobile-friendliness and if you need more information on moving your site over to a responsive mobile-friendly design then give us a call on 01273 677 557 and speak to Melanie. As experts in designing and building responsive websites, we'll be very happy to advise you.