Is your practice website mobile-friendly? If it isn’t (or you aren’t sure), the time has come to do something about it. Starting tomorrow, April 21, Google will officially incorporate mobile-friendliness as a ranking factor in determining search results, a move some experts are already calling “Mobile-geddon.” In other words, if your site isn’t mobile friendly, it may be in danger of dropping out of sight on untold numbers of smartphone screens.
Mobile-geddon or not, here’s how Google explains it on their Webmaster Central Blog,
When it comes to search on mobile devices, users should get the most relevant and timely results… As more people use mobile devices to access the Internet, our algorithms have to adapt to these usage patterns.
Starting April 21, we will be expanding our use of mobile-friendliness as a ranking signal. This change will affect mobile searches in all languages worldwide and will have a significant impact in our search results.
At this point, the company isn’t revealing how big a role mobile-friendliness will play in its calculations. Nevertheless, it’s not hard to see why they’re making the move when you consider that:
- Nearly 60% of Americans own a smartphone.
- Among U.S. adults, 22.9% of all media time (including computers, TV, print, etc.) in 2014 was spent on mobile.
- Local mobile searches are expected to exceed desktop searches for the first time this year.
Providing results that satisfy those mobile searchers is crucial to Google’s bottom line. After all, if a mobile user clicks on a site that loads slowly, hangs up on images or videos or requires a lot of pinching and zooming, it reflects poorly on both the website and the search engine that provided it.
Clearly, many of the specific tools and techniques that will optimize your practice website for mobile users are best left to your web developer. But there are small but significant steps you can take to at least determine how to proceed:
- Check to see if your website is mobile-friendly: If you do nothing else, visit Google’s Mobile-Friendly Test page, input the URL for your practice website and the test will provide insights on aspects (type size, white space, problematic software) that are likely to make for a good or bad experience.
- Check out your website via a variety of mobile devices and operating systems and judge for yourself how other visitors to your site are likely to react.
- Conduct searches for your name, specialty, location, etc., and determine whether or not your search rank changes compared to the competition. If you find yourself being downgraded, there’s a good chance other providers have already made mobile a priority.
If you pass all of the above tests, you’re probably okay for the time being; if not, it’s time to sit down with your web team and determine your strategy to survive the April 21 update and thrive in the months and years to come.
It’s always a good idea to give Google what it wants
Google’s April 21 update is only one in an ongoing series of changes, all of which are designed to give users better search results. As with previous updates, such as Panda, Penguin and Hummingbird, the impact can range from minimal to devastating. Either way, adapting accordingly, i.e., giving Google what it wants sooner rather than later, puts you that much further ahead than those who delay.