IS your website mobile-friendly?
That should be the principal question for any small to medium business owner in a day and age when web surfing on smartphones is growing exponentially.
More than 33 per cent of internet usage in Australia happens on mobiles, according to a January 2106 report on our internet surfing statistics.
Mobile device searches on Google are, of course, much higher for certain categories like home repair services, plumbing, electrical, even online shopping.
Google actually ranks websites that are not optimised for mobile lower in search results.
The search giant set out its agenda clearly: “As more people use mobile devices to access the internet, our algorithms have to adapt to suit these usage patterns.”
This mobile-first ranking factor kicked in officially in late April 2015.
That was when Google began adding a “mobile-friendly” label to its search results on smartphones.
A page is eligible for the “mobile-friendly” label if it meets the key criteria as detected by the Googlebot.
What are the “mobile-friendly” factors?
The search giant defines mobile-friendly sites as those which avoid software that’s not common on mobile devices, like Flash; uses text which is readable without zooming; sizes content to the screen so users don’t have to scroll horizontally or zoom; places links far apart so they can be tapped easily.
These are the basic guidelines for mobile optimisation and ensuring your site complies with each of them is paramount.
Check your pages with Google’s test
So what’s the quick way to check your site’s mobile responsiveness?
Google offers users a nifty service where they can place their site URL and get an instant analysis: https://www.google.com/webmasters/tools/mobile-friendly/
The mobile-friendly test can drain your time if your website has loads of separate pages. But Google does have a tool to help “bulk-check” your site.
For that reason, it is useful to get your site set up in Google Webmaster Tools, where you can obtain a full site report that identifies how many of your pages are not mobile-friendly at the moment.
Warning signs should go off if any of your pages fail the test here.
How to fix issues if your site fails
Firstly, analyse how many pages on your site are failing the Google test.
It pays to go deeper into the reasons for failure. This is where Google’s detailed help guide explaining “common mistakes” is handy: https://developers.google.com/webmasters/mobile-sites/mobile-seo/common-mistakes
Secondly, bring it to the attention of your “tech head”. If you don’t have an in-house tech, try and locate a web developer or designer with expertise in the mobile web.
Work with the external developer or web agency to fix the core issues so you have fully-functional mobile-friendly destination pages.
Of course, if you are tech savvy and inclined to build your site yourself, there are lots of free, easy-to-use tools out there.
And working with them can be much fun. It gives you control over your shop window and enables you to shape it and sell it just the way you want.
The solution is often as easy as switching your content to a content management system (CMS) like WordPress or Joomla, or even Google’s very own site builder (Google Sites).
Google provides handy resources and links here: https://developers.google.com/webmasters/mobile-sites/website-software/
Sometimes, rather than trying to adapt a bad, old architecture, it might make sense to rebuild you site from scratch in a mobile-first fashion.
Which is where the Google software resource mentioned above is priceless.
As the computing power in our pockets grows rapidly, and more and more transactions move to the mobile web space, the user experience and load speed of your site is going to be pivotal to the development of your business.
So your time and effort in fixing the foundation of your mobile property will surely be well spent.