This year, the biggest deadline in April isn’t tax day. It’s April 21, or “M-Day”, the day that Google will start using a website's mobile-friendless as a ranking factor in mobile searching results. For the average consumer, this is great news. Gone will be the days of pinching and zooming in a desperate effort to read a site’s content.
For unprepared website owners, however, M-Day could seriously devastate their mobile search performance. 80 percent of Internet users own a smartphone and use it to search the Internet, according to comScore. Search is the most common starting point for mobile research. 42 percent of car research, 41 percent of home and garden research, and 38 percent of apparel and beauty research all start with someone looking up a general service or product in Google's mobile search engine, rather than Googling a specific brand. This is why it's absolutely critical that your business has a mobile-friendly website. Without one, your business won't be visible in the top mobile search results.
With the use of mobile devices quickly surpassing PC usage, companies that don’t have a mobile site now risk being virtually invisible on the mobile web. With Google’s major search engine algorithm overhaul, if your website is not mobile friendly, it won’t make the cut for top mobile search results. Not only will potential customers fail to see your website in their mobile search results, but they’ll be viewing your competitor’s site instead. That’s not just bad business, that’s no business.
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With “M-Day” less than two weeks away, webmasters across the globe are scrambling to get their sites mobile-ready. Nearly half of the Fortune 500 websites are not mobile-friendly, according to TechCrunch. It’s no surprise that websites like Apple, Verizon, Wal-Mart and GE were all mobile-friendly. But sites that should be easily accessible on mobile phones, especially health care sites, generally were not. CVS and United Health Group, for example, both got failing marks. Do you know where your site stands?
How to Find Out If Your Website is Mobile-Friendly for Google
I know what you’re thinking: “I can view my website no problem on my smartphone. I don’t have anything to worry about!” But just because you can view a website on your phone doesn’t mean the website is mobile-friendly. It's better to confirm that your site is, indeed, mobile friendly than to assume it is and then take a major hit in the mobile search results once Google introduces its new algorithm. You can test whether your site is mobile-friendly by using Google’s Mobile-Friendly Developer Tool. Simply enter your website’s address and Google will analyze the site. Hopefully, you’ll see a result that says, “Awesome! This page is mobile-friendly”. If you find out that your website is not mobile friendly, all is not lost. If you act fast, you can get your website up to Google’s mobile standards in no time at all, no fancy coding required.
What Makes a Website Mobile Friendly?
Okay, so you just found out that your website is not mobile friendly, according to Google. Aside from meaning that your site is about to tank big time in mobile search engine rankings, what exactly does a “not mobile-friendly” designation mean? That seems a bit harsh. Am I going to have to build a brand new website just for mobile viewing? Probably not. All you need is a site with responsive design.
Responsive design means that no matter from which device your visitor is viewing your website, be that a laptop, a smartphone or a tablet, the site is automatically optimized for the best possible viewing reading and navigation experience. This means there’s minimal to no need for all that obnoxious resizing, panning, or scrolling that can really hinder usability for visitors. Chances are good that if nearly half of all Fortune 500 companies fail to have mobile-friendly websites, your competitors aren’t making use of responsive design, either. This means they’re losing out on potential customers, all of whom you could gain, should you make your site mobile friendly. Best of all, when compared with the alternative; creating a second website for mobile phone viewing responsive design is considered to be much easier to maintain, easily extendable to all new devices and far more effective from an SEO standpoint.
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Are you prepared for Google’s mobile search revolution? Here's how to get started:
If your website is ready for a major overhaul.
Okay, so if we were being honest, maybe your current website isn’t so hot – and mobile is not your only problem. In this case, you may want to start from scratch with a website builder tool that bakes in responsive design from the very beginning. IM Creator and TemplateMonster offer free or low-cost templates that include responsive design. This is a great option if you’re looking to upgrade your site’s appearance and its functionality.
If you love your website but just need to make it mobile-friendy.
So you absolutely love your current template and you just need it to look as great on a smartphone as it does on your computer screen. If you’re using WordPress, Joomla!, Drupal, Blogger or another common back-end base for your website, Google has a dedicated guide to walking you through your mobile upgrade options. In many cases, if you’re using a Wordpress Alternative like a free or premium template, the template’s creator will have released a version that includes responsive design. Be sure to back-up your website before making any changes and then upgrade your template and CMS to the latest version. If your CMS offers several custom theme options, confirm the option you’ve chosen is mobile friendly.
If you want to speed up mobile responsive time.
Consider using a content delivery network (CDN), which is a system of distributed servers that deliver content to users based on the geographic location of the user, the origin of the web page, and the location of the content delivery server. Sound a bit confusing? The premise is actually pretty simple: by using a CDN, your website will load faster for users. In tech speak, a CDN uses session optimization to reduce the number of open connections to your web server (e.g., SSL sites). This in turn reduces initial connection time and unnecessary latency. Many companies that offer CDN services, like Incapsula bake-in additional benefits for speeding site load time. While load speed may not make a huge difference for PC users, it does make a big different for mobile users. Is there anything more frustrating than waiting for an image-heavy website to load on your photo? After a few seconds, most users just give up. With content and network optimization, your website will load faster on all devices, including mobile phones, even when the network is slow.
M-Day is truly a “make or break” day for business websites. All that hard work you’ve done to optimize your site will all be for naught if you fail to make it mobile-friendly. Don’t get left behind! By making your website mobile-friendly, you can save your business from search engine ranking obliteration, and pick up some of your competitor’s customers too.