The web is mobile. In 2014, 52% of visits to retail websites were made on mobile devices. For a lot of sites, being mobile is already important. And the importance of having a site that performs well no matter how someone accesses it is set to increase. From 21/04/15 Google will give even more priority to mobile friendly websites in mobile search results. That means a site optimised for mobile is more likely to rank well, while a site that isn’t optimised for mobile could find itself slipping down mobile search results.
This is no surprise – for a while now Google has been highlighting mobile friendly sites in its results, so the search engine is clearly interested in making sure people using a mobile device for search are directed to a mobile optimised site. This means if you don’t have a mobile friendly site, then you’re increasingly likely to miss out on mobile traffic. Here’s everything you need to know about the change.
What does mobile friendly mean?
In essence a mobile friendly site is one that can be easily browsed on a smartphone. There are three ways of achieving this.
The first is to create a responsive website. A responsive site is one which resizes itself based on the size of the screen it is being viewed on. The Guardian’s website is responsive. Some websites use adaptive design, where the web server detects what browser a user has and generates a different version of the site accordingly. However, Google recommends that people use responsive design.
The final option is to create a separate mobile site. If this option is used, the site will detect what sort of device someone is accessing it from and then direct them to the appropriate site. For example, desktop visitors to bbc.co.uk/sport see the desktop site, but anyone accessing the URL from a phone is redirected to m.bbc.co.uk/sport – the mobile optimised version of the site.
How will this affect me and my site?
If you’ve got a website that ranks well in Google, then the chances are at least some of your traffic will be coming from mobile search. However, although mobile is now a large part of the overall search market, specific figures vary from site to site, so you’ll need to check whether it’s going to be worth your while launching a mobile friendly site just because of Google’s change.
If you’ve got Google Analytics set up you can see how much of your traffic is being generated by organic mobile search. To do this go to Audience>Mobile>Overview then add a secondary dimension of Source/Medium You should then be able to see the number of mobile visitors who are finding you through Google organic search.
At this stage it may be tempting to think “well, only 10% of my traffic comes from mobile organic search, so I don’t need to worry too much about this”. However, you also need to take into account the value this traffic generates for your site. If you have goals or ecommerce tracking set up in Google Analytics, then you’ll also be able to see the revenue mobile visitors bring. Bear in mind that if you don’t have a mobile friendly site, this figure may well fall after the update. If you’re not sure whether your site is mobile friendly, you can use this tool to check.
It’s also worth remembering that it’s possible your site doesn’t earn much from mobile traffic because it’s not mobile optimised. So even if mobile traffic doesn’t generate much revenue, implementing a mobile friendly site could still be the right thing to do.
If you haven’t got Google Analytics installed, you can learn how to do it here. Bear in mind though, that you won’t be able to gather a huge amount of data before the switchover, so you may still end up guessing as to whether you need a mobile friendly site or not.
Ultimately, you have to decide if the cost, time and effort of switching to a mobile friendly site now will be less than the potential cost of losing mobile search rankings after Google’s change.
How can I get a mobile friendly site?
The answer to this question depends on the method you’ve used to build your current site. We’ll consider the options available for some of the most common ways people build sites.
If you’re using a site built on WordPress, then you can switch over to a responsive theme. To do that follow the instructions about finding and changing themes here, or ask your WordPress developer to do it for you. Be sure to back up your site first so you can easily switch back to your old site if there are any problems. Only make the change if you’re confident about what you’re doing. A non-mobile optimised site is preferable to no site at all.
123-reg Website Builder
If you use version seven of the 123-reg Website Builder, you’ll already have a responsive site. If you’re using version six of Website Builder, your site will not be responsive. If you want to upgrade to a responsive site, you can buy a new Website Builder package and redesign your site using one of our responsive templates. You can use this guide to find out which version of Website Builder you have. If you’d like to switch from version six to version seven of Website Builder, you can contact us and we’ll be able to change your plan. We also have a team of online experts who can help you build a new, unique site if you want to take this opportunity to overhaul your site completely.
123-reg Online Shop
If you use a 123-reg Online Shop and have either the Plus Shop or Premium Shop plan, then you will have a mobile site. If you’re on the Lite Shop plan, you may want to consider upgrading in order to become mobile friendly. If you’re using an older version of our ecommerce package, you’ll need to upgrade before you can launch a mobile friendly site. You can learn about upgrading your Online Shop in this guide.
If you’ve paid a web designer to create a site for you and it isn’t mobile friendly, then you’ll need to think about getting a new site. You may want to go down the same route again and have a designer build a new site, or see if your current one can be adapted. Alternatively, you can switch to one of the other options we’ve already looked at.
If you have any questions about this update, let us know in a comment.