Google Searches Reach a Mobile Tipping Point

First it was getting a website. Next, it was creating social media profiles and climbing the SEO rankings. Now, it’s optimizing for mobile. The demands of keeping up your web presence as an SMB continue to expand.

For many, it’s stressful and time-consuming enough keeping up with blogging, tweeting, Facebook posting and Instagramming without having to worry about whether your website is mobile-optimized too. It’s enough to make you long for the days of classified advertisements, glossy brochures in mailboxes and eye-catching signage.

Google's Mobilegeddon

But your customers are moving from their laptops to their mobile devices, and search giant Google has made it clear that to keep up, websites need to be prepared for all of them. So, what is mobile optimization? How is Google prioritizing it? How can you ensure your website doesn’t take a hit in the rankings? Here’s a quick primer:

Mobile optimization explained

If—like a whopping 64% of adults in the US—you’re a smartphone user, you’ve likely experienced the frustration of visiting a website on your phone where the text was too small to read without zooming in, the content didn’t fit the screen, the links were impossible to tap and the navigation a total bust. That experience is the opposite of mobile optimization. An optimized site will fit neatly to the size of your screen, have clear text and navigation that easily responds to your taps. As with all good design, you shouldn’t notice it—instead, you should just have a pleasant and easy user journey.

“Mobilegeddon” — Google’s warning signal

On the 21st April this year, Google released an update to its search algorithm, and a lot of sites took a huge hit in mobile search rankings, leading to the update being dubbed “mobilegeddon”. A recent study by digital marketing agency Koozai found that 41% of SMB eCommerce site owners reported that their ranking had dropped at least three places, and some weren’t even sure if their websites were mobile-optimized or not.

Importantly, however, 27% of site owners thought they’d followed instructions and were mobile-ready, only to find that they were still dropping off in rankings. It’s been suggested that this could be due to the difference between adaptive design, which has different settings for different devices, and responsive design, which fluidly resizes a site to fit to any size window. Commentators have suggested that Google prefers responsive design. However, it could also be true that the rankings dropped because of other factors—after all, there are 200 of them to keep up with.

Ultimately, although it might not feel that way, Google’s aim is to facilitate an excellent user experience, so prioritizing ease of use is key.

The future?

Google is certainly looking to integrate eCommerce more directly into mobile platforms, with speculation that a ‘buy’ button might soon be added to mobile search results. While some SMBs may not believe that they need to be part of the mobile revolution, their sites could be left behind if they lack visibility in mobile search. Research from 2014 shows that 80% of local searches on mobile end in a purchase, and figures from the same year show that around 29% of all search queries are carried out on mobile. Many users are currently researching purchases on mobile and completing the sale from a desktop or laptop, but this could change as Google moves to make mobile purchases easier.

Next steps

  • Run your URL through Google’s Mobile Test for a basic indicator of whether your site is mobile-friendly.
  • Find out from your web designer if your website design is responsive, and if it’s not, make plans to implement it.
  • Talk to your eCommerce provider about how to prepare your site for mobile sales and future changes.