If you are waiting until mobile really takes off to address the mobile usability of your business website, the time is now. Arguably, it was two years ago. But with Google’s recent warning emails to site owners about mobile usability errors on websites, the issue can no longer be ignored. Google states outright that sites with mobile usability problems will experience a drop in their visibility on mobile devices. Given that roughly 60% of our time online is now spent on mobile devices (largely in apps), this represents a significant potential impact to your website, depending on your industry. Businesses simply cannot ignore this sizable piece of the traffic pie.
The Google Warning
Google began warning site owners in mid-2014 that mobile usability would soon be factored into the ranking algorithm. It made good on that promise this week with emails to site owners via Webmaster Tools. Here is the language in those emails:
Google systems have tested xx pages from your site and found that xx% of them have critical mobile usability errors. The errors on these xx pages severely affect how mobile users are able to experience your website. These pages will not be seen as mobile-friendly by Google Search, and will therefore be displayed and ranked appropriately for smartphone users.
Not Sure How Mobile Friendly Your Site Is?
If you do not have Webmaster Tools associated with your website, you may not have received this email warning. That does not mean that your site is in the clear. Chances are if your site is more than about two years old, it likely has mobile usability issues. Prior to Responsive Web Design, the best solution to the mobile issue was a separate, stand-alone mobile site. This was a less than perfect approach for a number of reasons, including the duplicate content issues and duplication of maintenance efforts that arise. In 2013, responsive web design began to take hold and offer a better solution. Google agreed and endorsed it as their preferred mobile approach. However, if your site has not been re-built since 2013, you are not likely taking advantage of this new technology.
If you aren’t sure where you stand, Google provides on online mobile-friendly test that you use to assess the situation.
When is this Happening?
The official date for Google’s algorithm update is April 21, 2015, giving site owners just over a month to address mobility issues in advance of the change. For most sites, that will not be enough time for a re-build. The time needed to implement responsive design depends on the age of the site and its current build type. Regardless, the sooner businesses begin the process of updating their sites, the sooner they will be in compliance with this new reality.