As we reported in our recent blog, The SEO trends predicted to dominate 2015, mobile-friendly websites are going to be big news in the year ahead. Google is currently experimenting with giving websites a ‘mobile-friendly’ label and prioritising mobile-friendly sites in search results. It makes sense with so many of us now using our mobile phones to surf the net, make purchases and pretty much run our lives and businesses at the swipe of our smartphones’ screens.
UPDATE TO THIS POST: Google updated its algorithms on 21st April 2015 to make mobile-friendliness a ranking factor. If your website isn’t mobile-friendly it is unlikely to show up in search results on a mobile device. With up to 50% of Google searches now taking place on a mobile, can you afford not to have a mobile-friendly website?
According to Google, 77% of mobile searches take place when we’re at home or work and have access to a desktop computer. Mobiles are becoming the default device for the majority of web users.
And yet a recent infographic from keepitusable.com showed that on average e-commerce sites dedicate just four percent of their budgets to developing mobile sites and mobile usability, whereas consumers spend a staggering 20% of their time on their phones.
The same infographic showed that 66% of mobile users abandon purchases because of problems during the payment process and, of those people, 63% are then less likely to buy from other channels of the same business.
A poor mobile experience makes a lasting impression.
But what do we mean by mobile usability and what elements of your site could you improve to create an altogether better experience for mobile users?
Google Webmaster Tools has some excellent guides into mobile usability that you might want to read.
Why make your website mobile friendly?
If you don’t have a responsive website design or mobile version of your site, then the chances are that viewing your usual desktop site on a smaller mobile phone or tablet screen is a pretty miserable experience.
People may have to scroll the pages horizontally as well as vertically to read each line of copy. Buttons may be difficult to read and tap, and it may be hard to use the on-site navigation because menu items are too close together. There’s nothing more frustrating than tapping on a neighbouring link in a pull-down menu and ending up on the wrong page of the site! In addition, the font on non-responsive sites can be far too small, making it difficult to read.
If people are presented with these barriers to accessing your content, the chances are they’ll navigate away in search of a more mobile-friendly site. In fact, it’s not too great a leap to surmise that if a mobile-friendly label does appear against listings in the SERPs, people will be more likely to click on a mobile-friendly link than to chance a site that doesn’t carry the mobile-friendly label.
Three things to consider when creating a mobile site
Google tells us that the three things to consider when creating a mobile site are:
- Making it easy for your customers to use
Think about what people will be doing when they’re on your site. Will they be viewing products and making purchases? Will they be looking for blog articles? Will they be wanting to share information?
How easy is it to do those things on your site from various mobile devices? Is the experience different from one device to another? Does your site work well with all operating systems and browsers?
Are the buttons too small? Can the call to action be seen at a glance? Is it clear how people navigate through your site? Do images fit on the page or are they running off the edge?
The aim is to provide a consistently good experience, regardless of what device a person is using to view your site.
- Measure the effectiveness of your website by how easily mobile customers can complete common tasks
Google recommends that you prioritise the tasks that are absolutely critical to people using your website successfully. If you run an e-commerce site, your first step should be to think about how you present your products and how easy it is to complete the payment/checkout process from a mobile phone.
Less important pages on the site can be refined for mobile visitors after your key pages are performing to the highest standard possible.
- Select a mobile template, theme or design that’s consistent for all devices (i.e., use a responsive design)
A responsive web design (RWD) is one that changes depending on what device is being used to view your site. You have one website but it would look different on mobile phones, tablets, desktops and laptops, resizing and shifting elements to give the best user experience for that device.
If you have a WordPress website, you may be able to change from your current non-responsive theme to a responsive one without too much inconvenience, expense or upheaval. You would simply need to go to the Dashboard>Appearance>Themes and add your chosen responsive theme, then make it active. It may need some tweaks to where the content is placed but the bare bones of a responsive site should be up and running in just a few clicks. You may even find that, when you update your current theme, it has been converted to a responsive design, as more and more theme developers are recognising the importance of making themes mobile-friendly.
If your website is on a different platform, Google provides some handy information about where to start with making your site mobile friendly.
Although some companies choose to create a mobile version of their website (often to save the immediate costs of a website redesign), an RWD is the better option in the long-run. Why? When you are maintaining separate desktop and mobile versions of your site, you have to ensure that new information is added to both sites; you will also have to manage two separate sets of problems. This can be time consuming and provide an inconsistent customer experience. With RWD, there’s one URL, one design, one set of coding, and one place to update.
Before you begin work on making your website mobile-friendly, we’d recommend reading Google’s helpful ‘Mobile SEO’ guides, especially the common mistakes to avoid. This covers important issues such as page speed, faulty redirects and irrelevant cross-links, which can all impact on the customer experience as well as your mobile SEO efforts.
How mobile friendly is your site?
To find out whether Google views your site as mobile-friendly (a good indicator that you would be awarded a mobile-friendly label by the search engine), enter your URL on Google’s Mobile-Friendly Test page.
We’d also recommend Google’s PageSpeed Insights Tool, which will show you if there are technical issues you need to fix to make your website run better across different devices. The PageSpeed Insights are broken down into mobile and desktop recommendations with links to further information about fixing the highlighted problems.
Have you done the Mobile-Friendly Test on Google yet? How did your website perform? Are you at risk of losing traffic when Google updates it’s algorithms in April?
Please Comment below.
Hazel Jarrett, director of SEO at SEO+, is well-known in the SEO space, has won many awards during her 20-year career and has been published on various well-known sites. Through her services and training programs, her SEO strategies have generated 10s of millions of sales for her clients, earning her a big reputation for delivering the results that matter.
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