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Don't assume that your website is mobile-friendly even if your web developer has told you that it is.

Your Website Must Be Mobile-Friendly – Or Expect Google to Lower Your Page Rank

Is your website mobile-friendly?
Is your website mobile-friendly?

A couple of weeks ago, Google rolled out a new change to its search algorithm that may reward – or punish – your business depending on how your website is optimized. This latest tweak to search results calculations is based on responsive design, also known as adaptive design. In short, this design mechanism allows your website to detect what size screen is viewing your site and adjusts accordingly.

A study by Pure Oxygen Labs estimates that approximately 44% of Fortune 500 company websites are not mobile-friendly. For small to mid-sized businesses, the prognosis is likely to be much more grim. The apprehension about the change is so great it’s been coined “Mobilegeddon.” Here’s what you need to know about the new algorithm so you can protect the Google page rank of your company website.

What Changes Have Been Made

Google has announced, “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. Consequently, users will find it easier to get relevant, high quality search results that are optimized for their devices.”

The notion behind this change is to improve usability for mobile users. And it makes sense. Recent research by SmartInsights.com reveals that device owners rank their most important device for Internet access in this order: (1) tablet (2) laptop (3) smartphone (4) desktop. Because mobile devices are used so frequently by website users, it’s critical that your site is viewable and functional on these platforms.

Websites using adaptive design will be prioritized over non-adaptive sites in search results. Your ranking may stay the same for web surfers using a desktop or laptop, but for those searching on smaller devices, your website will be harder to find. If you’ve ever been on a site not optimized for smaller screens, you know how frustrating it is when options aren’t touch friendly, fonts are too small, or menus aren’t accessible.

How to Correct for the Algorithm Change

If your site is currently not designed adaptively, you have two options. First, you can redesign your site with mobile in mind using responsive design programming. The second option is to develop a mobile version of your site. An adaptive redesign is preferable because it will retain the functionality of your full website only honed for a smaller screen.

In contrast, mobile versions of sites can be aggravating. Often, if you perform a Google search for a topic and then click a result, instead of going to that page, poorly programmed websites will hijack you from reaching the page you want and redirect you to the home page of their mobile site. From there, you have to search again for the page. This annoys site visitors and can cause them to leave your site.

Here’s what you should do to assess how your site is currently performing for mobile search and how to correct for it:

#1 Test your pages

Google offers a Mobile-Friendly Test tool you can use to check out how your site performs. The downside of this tool is that it checks only one page at a time based on URL. If your website has hundreds of pages, it can be time-consuming to test it.

#2 Modify your site

You’re likely already using a pro to help with your website, but you need to make sure they optimize your site for mobile. One recommendation is to use a mobile-optimized template. New scrolling templates such as Weebly Parallax are ideal for this shift.

#3 Clean up your URLs

Google is also changing how it displays breadcrumb URLs so they align with the Schema structure. Be sure your site isn’t using URLs for pages like “Topic_403.” Instead, create clearer ones like “Company.com/Blog/Top-10-Ideas-for-Saving-Money.” You may also want to clean up prior URLs.

#4 Optimize your content

Mobile-friendly content will utilize:

  • Clear and brief headlines
  • Short paragraphs rather than long blocks of text
  • Clearer calls to action
  • Relevant keywords used in moderation
  • Meaningful meta descriptions of roughly 155 characters that include keywords
  • Optimized images and tags (and rethink image-heavy pages)

Don’t assume that your website is mobile-friendly even if your web developer has told you that it is. Check it yourself on your mobile device, run a few pages through the Google Test tool and, if results aren’t what they should be, act quickly to get your site compliant with this new algorithm or be prepared to face the penalty to your page rank as a result.

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About Alyssa Sellors

Alyssa Sellors was an English and Journalism educator for eight years and now works as a freelance writer and journalist. She is a regular contributor to a number of publications. In her spare time, she enjoys traveling, reading, and spending time with her husband, baby boy, and two chihuahuas.

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