Was your site hit by Google's Mobile-Friendly algorithm update, April 21st?
Why responsive design has become essential
You may have read that Google is rolling out a major "mobile-friendly" algorithm update on April 21st. Mobile devices now initiate over half of all searches on Google, so sending mobile searchers to websites that offer a terrible user experience no longer makes sense. This much-needed upgrade was a long time coming.
Will this hurt your rankings and traffic? Enter your site's URL at Google's Mobile-Friendly Test page: https://www.google.com/webmasters/tools/mobile-friendly/. If you get a failing grade, your site will qualify for a ranking penalty after April 21st, 2015. You could be de-listed for all mobile searches.
Google loves “responsive”!
According to a study released by Google, “What Users Want Most From Mobile Sites Today,” conducted by Sterling Research and SmithGeiger in July 2012,
- 61% of users said that if they didn’t find what they were looking for right away on a mobile site, they’d quickly move on to another site,
- 79% of people who didn’t like what they found on one site would go back and search for another site, and
- 50% of people said that even if they like a business, they will use them less often if the website isn’t mobile-friendly.
Google recommends webmasters follow the industry best practice of using responsive web design, namely serving the same HTML for all devices and using only CSS media queries to decide the rendering on each device.
Switching to responsive web design can be very profitable
- To you as the website owner, responsive web design means we don't have to create different versions of the website for various desktop computers, tablets and smart phones. A responsive site provides a quality user experience for many devices, platforms and screen sizes.
- You also don't have to create several versions of the content; one for each device experience. With responsive design, the same content displays for every screen, configured on the fly for the device.
- Visitors that immediately leave websites providing a horrible mobile user experience are unlikely to become customers. When your website delivers a premium user experience for everyone, bounces tend to go way down.
Why a proper responsive web design upgrade is better than the "quick fix" bandaid options
There are many shortcut solutions to creating a mobile-friendly version of your website. Most auto-generate and present a stripped-down version of the website. When you consider that more than half of all internet traffic is mobile, and every day that percentage is growing, why would you provide a lesser version of your website to your primary audience?
Many so called "mobile-friendly" upgrades remove most of the calls to action, like forms. This can severely hurt conversion rates. Items like the key benefit panels on the home page are discarded. Quality responsive websites provide all of the content that is available to desktop and laptop users to mobile users. The only difference is that it has been configured for the screen size of the device.
Many of the solutions create a second version of your content. Google hates duplicate content, and you may qualify for a ranking penalty when you have two sites. Also, there can be syncing challenges with the secondary mobile site, whenever you update content on the main site.
With responsive design, the designer/developer has control over the mobile site's design and content. We can fine tune the design for various smart phones and tablets. With the computer-generated "quick fix" mobile sites, there is very little control over the look and feel, or user experience. Design decisions were already made by the developers of the software solution.
Like it or not, the world has gone mobile. Smart phone and tablet users have become the primary audience, and responsive design delivers the same calibre of user experience to everyone.