February 13, 2015
Your website developer has told you a thousand times that you should invest in a mobile-friendly version of your website. Each and every time, you ignored his word of advice, thinking that any kind of change in this department would cost a lot of time, money and energy (resources that are very scarce these days). At this point, Google is the one making this recommendation. But in this case, are we actually talking about a friendly tap on the shoulder or an “or else”-type of request?
Here’s the true story behind one’s most recent reasons of concern: Google is sending punctual mobile usability warnings to a large number of webmasters, via e-mail and via Google Webmaster Tools.
One Mass Message from Google, So Many Questions
According to Search Engine Land, Google is sending a somewhat worrying mass notification to webmasters whose websites are not mobile-ready. Through this message, Google is urging recipients to “Fix mobile usability issues found on…”. Search Engine Roundtable introduces the type of message that many webmasters have been unlucky enough to open and read a few days ago: “Google Systems have tested 3,670 pages from your site and found that 100 percent of them have critical mobile usability errors.” Critical? Does this mean your website has caught some sort of fatal disease? Could its kind be on the verge of extinction? Could your content be at risk?
This type of message makes you feel like that time you got a D in math in high school, after spending six hours on homework. You tried hard, but apparently not hard enough. How does one react to this? Fortunately, Google lends a helping hand, by offering valuable guidelines designed to facilitate the transition from a standard website to a mobile-friendly one. According to Google, webmasters can fix this problem in three easy steps by:
- Finding problematic pages (analyzing mobile issues after viewing a report of the non-mobile-friendly pages identified on their website);
- Learning the basics of mobile-friendly design and implementing the right changes that would address the mobile issues that appeared in Webmaster Tools;
- Fixing the specific issues that stop their website from becoming mobile-friendly.
This request launched by Google as well as potential methods to comply with it are being discussed on the Google SEO News and Discussion Forum hosted by WebmasterWorld. The most pressing question that automatically comes to mind is this: how will Google’s demand affect my website, its content and my overall efforts to promote my business online?
(How) Will Google’s Mobile Usability Warning Impact Your Content?
Search Engine Journal sheds some light on this matter: according to this source, Google could be launching a mobile ranking algorithm in the near future. Google also introduced mobile usability reports and a very handy mobile-friendly testing tool in Webmaster Tools. As a matter of fact, Google has provided guidelines enabling webmasters to help smartphone users engage with their website fully since 2013. At the same time, Yoshikiyo Kato, Software Engineer, announced on behalf of the Mobile Search team the fact that Google will roll out certain ranking changes addressing websites that are “misconfigured for smartphone users.”
Now the change seems imminent. Should you embrace it or try to resist it?
The fact that Google is sending these warnings on a large scale indicates that something big is about to happen. When it comes to managing your relationship with Google, it is definitely not recommended to try to swim against the current. Since this project is in its incipient form, the penalties surrounding one’s failure to comply with Google’s demand are still wrapped in mystery; the same goes for the direct impact that these new changes may have on your content.
Nonetheless, the immediate effect that one would notice if such an algorithm were to be implemented is quite predictable: websites that are not mobile-ready will not get to occupy a privileged position on mobile search. Your refusal to make your website mobile-friendly could very well impact your rankings and your level of online visibility, making it more difficult for your readers to find your content. And we all know that companies whose websites are not listed on the first pages in Google are pretty much lost at sea without a lifejacket.
What Are the Four Mobile-Friendly Criteria That Your Website Should Meet?
Fortunately, Google is kind enough to introduce and explain its main mobile-friendly criteria that any fully optimized website should meet. Websites eligible for the mobile-friendly label:
- Use text that can be read by Smartphone users without zooming
- Does not rely on software that is uncommon on Smartphone devices (such as Flash)
- Size their content to the screen (so that Smartphone users wouldn’t have to zoom or scroll horizontally)
- Display ideal link placement techniques (place links at a distance, enabling the Smartphone users to tap on the right one)
Google has converted mobile usability into a relevant criterion for optimal search results. Furthermore, Google gives webmasters access to how-to guides and a Mobile usability report in Webmaster Tools; plus the chance to assess their websites using the Mobile-Friendly Test.
Is Google’s Demand Justifiable?
Here’s a useful exercise to try at least once: instead of worrying about Google’s penalties and letting that eat your time, think about the reasons why you should go for a mobile-friendly website.
Your customers are the most important reason. According to the data provided by PewResearch Internet Project, 63 percent of adult cellphone owners relied on their Smartphones to surf the Internet in 2013. Moreover, according to the same source, 34 percent of the cell Internet users conduct online searches mostly utilizing their Smartphones, and not by relying on a different gadget such as a laptop or a desktop. All these numbers point in the same direction, indicating that more and more people reach you (and other businesses just like the one that you’re running) through their Smartphones. Naturally, they want to land on websites that are 100 percent mobile-friendly, load fast and offer the info that they came looking for. They are tired of the pinch-to-zoom system and want rapid, effortless access to whatever it is that you’re selling on your website.
Should You Join the Mobile Movement?
So the question that is currently on everyone’s lips is this: should I invest time, money and energy in a mobile-friendly version of my website? At the end of the day, it is always better to be safe than sorry, especially when it comes to performing adjustments that could better your relationship with Google. Your ability to cope with the wind of change of change associated with a new algorithm that Google could introduce sooner than expected may improve your website’s position in search engine results and maximize your level of exposure. On the other hand, having a mobile-friendly website is a great advantage these days, when most people use their Smartphones to surf the Internet, research different products, buy everyday essentials and, oh yeah- read your blog in their lunch breaks. Therefore, in this context, you have two options at hand: you could either take your website to the next level and become a part of the mobile revolution or dig your heels in, stick to the old version of your website and watch how your content gradually sinks into oblivion.
Julia McCoy is a top 30 content marketer and has been named an industry thought leader by several publications. She enjoys making the gray areas of content marketing clear with practical training, teaching, and systems. Her career in content marketing was completely self-taught. In 2011, she dropped out of college to follow her passion in writing, and since then grew her content agency, Express Writers, to thousands of worldwide clients from scratch. Julia is the author of two bestselling books on content marketing and copywriting, and is the host of The Write Podcast. Julia writes as a columnist on leading publications and certifies content strategists in her training course, The Content Strategy & Marketing Course. Julia lives in Austin, Texas with her daughter, husband, and one fur baby.