Google announced (months ago) that it will adjust its search results to favour those sites with mobile-ready web content.They say changes will affect search results after April 21. This is causing some consternation with many businesses. Why? They are afraid they won’t show up in organic search results costing them traffic and business.
Why is Google REALLY doing this?
- Two-thirds of internet searches and surfing is being done on mobile devices from smart phones (when people are in meetings, when people are using transit, when people are waiting for the movie to start, when people are in a bar–to win a trivia bet).http://FoundLocally.com sees about 2/3 of our traffic from mobile users, on either smart phones or tablets.
- Companies using Google AdWords [http://Google.com/AdWords] to get traffic over and above their “organic” search results, are going to be affected—and have been already— they are paying for search clicks going to their site, but those 2/3 of people on mobile devices see a desktop-only site and click back to Google and go to the next site. You’re paying for “traffic” that is not going to waste time on your Troglodyte website (and Google looks stupid to mobile users by sending them to badly formatted content, just because an advertiser is paying them to)
- The “Apps” revolution of a few years back turned out to be a DUD (but a total money maker for Google and Apple). Users prefer mobile web sites for brands not already core to their lives. It’s a pain to download and maintain “apps” for each business they just MIGHT patronize. Businesses win because they do not have to have an app for Blackberry, iPhone/iPad, Android, and Microsoft… just create and maintain one mobile website.
Keep in mind mobile users use their devices differently than they use their desktop computers. They are in a different physical location, and have different information needs. Its critical to consider your user when deciding what to do with a mobile strategy. Its NOT JUST about fitting your site to a smaller screen.
A good example of a successful mobile approach, look to Facebook, which works very differently in the two environments. And heavy “Facebook” users will notice, the “Messenger” app and the corporate “Pages” app work totally differently than the functionality of the desktop Facebook.com website.
Solutions for Web Sites
There are two ways to meet this need, both of which have plusses and minuses, though Google does care which approach you take
- Create a Mobile Version in addition to your desktop version. Upload it to your existing web server at either m.domain.com or domain.com/mobile (Telus or Shaw, for example, only permit the latter).Take existing content and create mobile-friendly navigation, layout, and stylesheets and apply them to your content, and modify content to better suit the various device screen sizes.
- Change any table layouts to suit a much narrower table structure. There are a number of other “Best Practices” to incorporate into a good mobile design.
- Replace inset images with inline images, to avoid word wrap issues
- Make some hierarchical content collapsible, to better fit the small screen size and speed access to key content
- Review EVERY SINGLE PAGE to ensure it suits mobile users
- Consider changes in demographics and user needs to change menu priorities and home page buttons to better suite mobile users
- When loading the site on the server you need to write an “autodetect” script to send mobile users to one version, and desktop users to the other.
- Create a single “Responsive Design” website, that dynamically modifies the layout as screen sizes vary, so users on desktop, tablets, large smart phones, smaller smart phones see different variations of the same content, including different images, different sized images, different navigation, and or different ads.The problem with responsive design is many web designers (in order to meet tight client timeframes and/or cost budgets) must use pre-designed templates, using very complex CSS, making them look generic, and be very difficult to customize to your exact specification.Also, many CSS stylesheets incorporate shortcuts like JQuery, which can adds a lot bells & whistles to a website, but forces users to load a 350 kb stylesheet which makes your mobile site feel really slow. Also all of the HTML content and images must be loaded onto the device, before it can use styleshet rules for what to display and how to display it given its screen size. These two item REALLY SLOW DOWN the site for mobile users, turning many ways.
Look to the responsive http://CalgaryHerald,com website (designed by a division of WordPress) and see how slowly it loads on a smartphone
Responsive Design is highly complex, and typically costs a LOT MORE than the first approach, but is particularly advantageous for:
- Larger sites (over a hundred pages) reduce site maintenance, with only one version–though it will clearly take longer to set up and configure
- Small sites may work quickly from a pre-designed template and may speed your implementation time–but looks generic and impersonal
- One option to avoid: A “Trival” Mobile Site. Google will ABSOLUTELY PENALIZE YOU for a “trivial” mobile version (5 or six pages) when your desktop site is much larger (say 20-1000 pages). We have seen many mobile website designers offering this as a crutch (often due to limited in-house skill-sets or eagerness to provide ”some solution” to fit a users budget, to clients that are not sophisticated enough to know better).When you see someone offer “a mobile site for $1500”, be prepared for a trivial site that will not address Google’s criteria (and your customers will rather patronize a competitor and their website). You will only be successful if every page of your website will have a matching or corresponding mobile-friendly page with the same content.
- Brownie points with users: create a QR (QuickResponse) code that reflects your website and your brand, which will drive your store visitors and business patrons to your website (or a specific page within your website
You may say its NOT worth it if:
- Your website is not important to your marketing (though maybe it should! be)
- You have a strong brand and most people either have already bookmarked your site, or type the URL to start at the home page
- Your clients access your site mostly from desktop computers (check your Google Analytics, site stats, or do an anecdotal review of your clients’ usage)
- You have a site rebuild underway or coming-soon anyway, so its not an immediate priority
There is no need to get caught up in the hype, just because of a looming deadline (April 21st). If you DO have questions, give me a call at 403-245-2194403-245-2194, email me through LinkedIn, or visit our Media Kit website.