Have you looked up the analytics of your website and noticed that mobile browsers are appearing in there more than ever? You’re not alone. As much as 35% of all on-line traffic comes from a mobile device. But surely you’ll have noticed that by now.
“In the event that you haven’t noticed the shift toward mobile browsing, Google certainly has. Google has announced that changes are coming to its search algorithm which will gauge whether or not your site is mobile-friendly, and demote it in relevant searches.”
Did someone say ‘demote’ my website?
Demotion, yuck, what an ugly word that everyone tries to avoid as often as possible. This obviously means that you need to have a mobile-ready website in place, and it’s not the only reason to do so, of course. But Google goes one step further in demoting sites that are mobile-ready, generally, but which contain certain mistakes.
Google has posted a list of common mistakes in smart-phone sites, but here are some of the bigger issues (the ones that scare off visitors from websites) are:
- Unplayable videos (Tip: if you’re using video content, take a look at some of your older posts to see if it looks right on your mobile. Probably not.)
- Pages not optimised for speedy loading on mobile devices (Tip: If you have a flash intro or splash page, please kill it now. That goes for your ‘normal’ website, too.)
- Too many pictures (Tip: Use the data URI scheme to reduce the need to load a picture.)
Most of the tips Google serves up are common sense, really. If you start thinking about your mobile site with the rules and parameters in place around it that have been in practice since the days of the 56kbps modem (and earlier), it all makes sense.
In the old days (you know, the nineties), dial-up modems just couldn’t handle big, high-definition images and videos very well. So web designers, in those Maverick frontier days that came on the heels test of Windows 95, always had to think about bandwidth limitations.
As soon as the whole world went high-speed, there was explosion in web design featuring clever, complicated animations and songs blasting off, and all that. But everyone did so because they could.
Thankfully, web design has moved away from all the pomp, even test when designing for desktop browsers. (Who else here’s glad that’s over?)
Think of mobile along those lines, but remember that you can definitely do cool stuff on mobile browsers – videos, images, and interactive content. You just can’t throw everything and the kitchen sink at a smartphone, frankly. Not only is bandwidth sometimes tapered on mobile devices, but the screens are smaller, so there’s less real estate with which to get your point across. That’s before we mention that the average person’s attention span is rather fleeting these days. What all this adds up to is a need to smartly streamline how we present things in a mobile context, and that’s what Google’s ultimately trying to encourage.
So, what now?
In short, it means that if you don’t have a mobile website, your rankings are going to take a hit soon. The answer is really simple and you’ve got two options:
- Get a mobile-optimized website
- If you’re currently considering a website re-design, seriously consider a responsive design
It also means that if your website is in a very competitive industry, having a mobile site could be the difference in having a front-page listing. Your mobile website may be at the bottom of the list today, but if you think that digital is the way of the future, then here’s a nudge to move it towards the top of your list.