For some time now we have been pushing this issue and telling our clients they need to think about investing in a mobile friendly website.
That time is now
…and should be a top-action-item for businesses who are concerned about their websites performance in the search engines.
Google has flat out announced that if your website is not mobile friendly (or misconfigured when viewed on a mobile device), there will be demotions and penalties assessed which will affect your ranking.
For now, this demotion is only set to affect Mobile and Smartphone search results, it will not affect users that are using non-mobile devices such as laptops or desktops.
To put it plainly, if your site is not built correctly, it is going to rank well in the smartphone search results.
You might not think this affects a big chunk of your website traffic. However, as of May 1st 2013 46% of searches were performed on smartphones. So nearly half of all traffic to your site is potentially coming from mobile search results. Just think about the impact of your website rankings dropping significantly for almost 50% of your potential visitors.
In addition to evaluating your websites effectiveness as a mobile-friendly site, Google will also apply its own “speed ranking” to separately rank the speed that your mobile site loads. Load time plays a huge role in demotions for SEO.
Options for Mobile-Friendly Websites
You might be wondering what options there are for your website. Essentially there are three reasonable options to consider: Mobile Version of Desktop Site, a Responsive Website, or WP Touch. Here is a quick explanation of each.
A mobile website is simply a mobile version of your website. When a visitor is using a mobile device they are redirected to the mobile version view. Mobile websites are traditionally a simplified form of your current site optimized for viewing on a mobile device. This essentially cuts out a lot of the complex structure and content that mobile users would not need to see in order to interact with the website.
Mobile users have a different mindset than a desktop user so the information they might be hoping to find should be readily available as well as features such as Click to Call, Find us (maps) etc. We prefer this method as its the most beneficial to the end user. You would be required to build a separate version of the website. This method satisfies all of Google’s warnings and guidelines and will give your users the best experience when done properly.
Many people will claim responsive web sites are the way to go but we are not so sure. Essentially, a responsive web design will shift the elements on your page to fit the screen size viewing the website. So if a user is viewing on a tablet it will squeeze the site, move blocks of text, to align to the skinnier screen width than a traditional desktop or laptop screen would have, convert your navigation to a mobile friendly view such as a drop down or buttons, etc.
The biggest issues with a responsive website would be, all the content and elements you see on the desktop version are still present on the mobile version. Its a simplified alignment of the same content that is available to the desktop version. This can prove to be difficult to manage or have unpredictable results on a mobile device. Not all content is necessary for a mobile user and having to scroll through copious amounts of data just to find what they need might leave you worse off than just having a standard website for them to view on a smartphone.
When done well responsive is a great option and more affordable than a dedicated mobile site but its inconsistent between browsers and phones and we currently do not recommend it as a way to make sure you are mobile-friendly just yet.
Similar to a mobile version WP touch is specific for WordPress website owners. This allows you to convert your existing WordPress site into a mobile version by using this plugin. It is compatible on all devices but is limited in design and structure at this time. This is a great option for WordPress owners on a budget who are not extremely concerned with the design or offering specific functionality to the mobile version.
The biggest problem with this method we feel is there is a big disconnect between the look of the desktop site and this version. Here again, we feel the Mobile Version we can custom build is a far better option because it will retain the style and design the customer has come to appreciate in the desktop version.
Take this advice to heart and start planning for implementing one of these options in the near future or face Google’s Wrath!
To learn more about our mobile website design please visit our Mobile Design and Maintenance page.