Earlier this year, Google rolled out a major update to its search algorithm. Now, when mobile users access Google from their smartphone or tablet, Google will only display search results for mobile-friendly websites. If your website doesn’t pass Google’s Mobile-Friendly Test, it won’t be highly ranked in the mobile search results.
For those of us doing the Googling, this is great news: we’ll be getting relevant, high-quality search results that are optimized for easy viewing on whatever device we’re using. For businesses with non-mobile friendly websites, however, this update will have an impact. Your website won’t get the ranking boost in the mobile search results, which could seriously sink your bottom line.
Why Mobile Optimization Matters
Mobile devices, especially smartphones, dominate digital media consumption, with 60% of all digital media time being spent on mobile devices and only 40% on computers, according to comScore’s “Digital Future in Focus” report released earlier this year. And while mobile search queries still account for only 29% of total search volume, these numbers are expected to grow steadily as more Americans turn to their smartphones first and computers second. Google’s push for mobile optimization is an inevitable outshoot of this growth and it’s also a reflection of current expectations amongst mobile users.
Consider this: 40% of mobile users say they have abandoned a website that took more than three seconds to load. A one second delay (or three seconds of waiting) decreases customer satisfaction by 16% – resulting in an estimated 7% reduction in conversions. If you run an e-commerce site that makes $100,000 per day, that one-second delay will end up costing you $2.5 million in lost sales each year, reports Kissmetrics. Whether it’s slow load speeds or a too-tiny text size, failing to effectively optimize your website for mobile viewing could be costing your business a pretty penny.
Don’t assume that just because your mobile site passed Google’s Mobile-Friendly Test that you’re in good shape. There’s still a lot more you can do to improve overall user experience and boost sales. Here’s where to get started:
Creating “readable” mobile content is about more than just picking an easy-to-read font size. Mobile users who are searching for general information don’t have time to wade through a 1,000-word white paper to find the answer. Use subheads, bullets and bolded text to break content down into digestible snippets.
Make it easy for visitors to share great content they read on their mobile devices with correctly sized buttons for Facebook, Twitter, and other social sites. Buttons (also referred to as ‘touch targets’ by website designers) should be at least 50px by 50px with 20px to 32px worth of space between each button.
Speed up loading times
On a mobile device, every second counts. Mobile Internet users expect a web-browsing experience that’s comparable to what they would get on their desktop computer. The trouble is, of course, that cellular data connections can be downright slow. Most mobile users will only wait 6 to 10 seconds before abandoning pages that haven’t loaded, according to Kissmetrics.
While you can’t change a slow Wi-Fi or cellular data network connection, you can optimize mobile load times so that your site loads as quickly as possible regardless of connection speed. Get started at Google’s PageSpeed Insights Test, which will help identify potential load speed time hogs. Common pitfalls include lack of image optimization, slow server response time, lack of browser caching, and unnecessary landing page re-directs.
Cut the fluff
The best mobile websites are light, simple and fast. If a widget or embedded media does not seamlessly enhance user experience, eliminate it. This includes inaccessible content, like Flash, which negatively impacts your site’s ranking. When evaluating whether or not to keep a piece of content on your mobile site, use this simple test: “Does this content enhance the user experience?” All content must align with user intent.
Most mobile site visitors need an immediate answer to a question in order to take action, whether that’s a store location, operating hours, or number to call for service. Don’t force visitors to hunt for this information; make it front and center on the homepage and include a one-touch link for Google map directions and click-to-call functionality.
Choose a responsive design
You don’t have to reinvent the wheel to have great mobile website design. I use responsive design and recommend my clients do too for the simple reason that it’s a “set it and forget it” solution. Responsive design means the website will automatically adjust to accommodate the screen on which the site is being viewed, whether that’s a computer monitor, tablet or smartphone.
There’s no need to build and maintain an alternative mobile site. Any content you add to your main site will be automatically part of your mobile site and displayed at the optimum-viewing size for easy mobile consumption. Responsive website design is especially beneficial for eCommerce sites as a mobile-friendly shopping cart will result in a more intuitive checkout process.
Don’t go it alone
Not sure how to adjust the touch elements on your website for optimal viewing? Are you receiving an error message such as “view port not config.” or “content not sized to view port” when you run Google’s Mobile Usability Report or its PageSpeed Insights Test?
Whether you need a brand new mobile website or assistance optimizing your current site, there’s no need to go it alone. There are many great sources for quality templates with responsive designs as well as web designers who specialize in ensuring designs pass the mobile-friendly test.
As Google continues to change the mobile search world – Gary Illyes finally confirmed rumors this June that Google is working on a separate mobile search index – a mobile-friendly website is an absolute must for your business to remain competitive. Creating mobile-friendly content, speeding up load times, and using responsive design will put your website squarely ahead of the competition.
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