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Is Your Local Site Mobile Friendly? Should It Be?
Local businesses often don't see the need to go mobile, but columnist Rachel Lindteigen reminds SMBs that the time to prepare is now.
Mobile usage is growing, and if you think this doesn’t impact you…. you’re very likely wrong.
U.S. smartphone penetration is now at 75% as of December 2014, up from 65.2% in December 2013, meaning that traffic from mobile is likely to be increasing as well. In fact, in late 2014, mobile traffic surpassed desktop traffic for the first time.
Mobile device owners aren’t just using their devices for fun, either — according to a report from Nielsen, 87% of smartphone and tablet owners report using their mobile devices for shopping activities. And Shopify reported 50.3% of traffic to its e-commerce platform was from mobile devices with the other 49.7% from desktop in August 2014.
Furthermore, research from Google drives home just how important mobile is to local businesses:
Appearing on smartphones is critical for local businesses. 94% of smartphone users look for local information on their phone and 84% take action as a result, such as making a purchase or contacting the business.
Prepare For A Potential Google Mobile Algorithm
While it’s obvious that more consumers are both browsing and shopping online, it also appears that Google may be preparing for a mobile algorithm update based on some of the recent activities.
Late last month, Google started issuing notices to webmasters if their sites were not mobile friendly. This is on top of the mobile-friendly label they’ve been displaying on mobile search results for sites that are mobile friendly.
With the increase in mobile traffic, it makes sense that Google would want to ensure the best user experience, and sometimes it takes an algorithm update to make that happen. If your site is not mobile-friendly, it could impact your overall performance and hurt your business, so it’s important to know where you stand.
What’s Mobile Friendly?
So what exactly is “mobile-friendly,” and how do you find out if your local website qualifies? According to Google, in order for a website to be classified as mobile friendly, it must meet the following criteria:
- Avoids software that is not common on mobile devices, like Flash
- Uses text that is readable without zooming
- Sizes content to the screen so users don’t have to scroll horizontally or zoom
- Places links far enough apart so that the correct one can be easily tapped
If you’ve read the list above but still aren’t sure if your site is mobile-friendly, there are ways to find out. First, you can search for your website from your mobile device and see if the “mobile friendly” tag is displayed. If it is, you’re good. It not, you need to dig further.
Tools For Testing
Next, you can check the Mobile usability report in your Google Webmaster Tools account. This report will tell you about your site’s overall performance.
(Note: If you don’t already have a Google Webmaster Tools account set up for your website, do so ASAP. It’s a pretty simple process to set up and it’s free. Once you have verified ownership of your site, Google will let you know if there are issues you need to resolve, and you will be notified of these type issues automatically as they crop up in the future.)
If you want to check individual URLs for mobile-friendliness, you can use the Google Developers Mobile-Friendly Test Tool to determine if Google is finding any issues. Read more on the Google Webmasters Mobile Guide to learn how to resolve the issues.
What To Do About It?
If you find that you have issues and your site is not currently mobile friendly, then you need to determine how big an issue it is for you. It’s time to do a bit of digging.
- Check Your Competition. Is the mobile-friendly label displaying on their SERP listings? If it’s on their site and not on yours, you will likely see a lower click-through rate from mobile device users as customers will go to the competition rather than you. If the competition doesn’t have the label, this can quickly become a competitive advantage for you if you can update your site first.
- Dig Into Your Analytics. Determine what percentage of your traffic is from a mobile device. It’s possible that more than half of your traffic is mobile — many of my clients are seeing almost equal numbers between mobile and desktop traffic. If the mobile traffic percentage is high, you have a bigger issue than if it’s low. Essentially, the higher the percentage, the more you’re risking your performance.
Depending on the severity of the potential issue, you may need to consider moving your website to responsive design or creating a mobile-friendly site that’s separate from your desktop experience.
While Google isn’t explicitly saying that there’s a mobile algorithm update on the horizon, the signs are pointing in that direction. Mobile traffic is definitely growing, and Google is again trying to ensure it delivers the best user experience possible by calling out mobile-friendly sites in its mobile search results and alerting webmasters of mobile issues.
By taking a few minutes now to determine if your site is mobile-friendly or not, you can either find yourself with a competitive advantage or needing to quickly play catch up. It’s important to understand how Google views your website in order to stay competitive.
Some opinions expressed in this article may be those of a guest author and not necessarily Search Engine Land. Staff authors are listed here.