If you want your website to be easily findable in search engines, a great place to start is by following SEO best practices and making sure that you are paying attention to the recommendations that Google makes for web designers and developers.
These recommendations now include building a website with a responsive approach to best support different devices and screen sizes. In fact, as of April of this year, Google will actually reward your site if you follow this advice (which means they will penalize you if you do not).
The Debut of “Mobile Friendly” Listings
Near the end of last year, Google debuted a new “mobile-friendly” label that they began adding to listings of websites that were, indeed, mobile-friendly. The search engine realized that more and more of their users were turning to mobile devices for their search experience and growing frustrated when the results that they clicked on were not suited to their mobile devices. Google’s “mobile-friendly” label would give these users an easy way to see which websites in search results would work best on their mobile devices.
The addition of this new label was a big step forward for Google, who had previously recommended that sites be built responsive and multi-device friendly, but had not done anything to reinforce this recommendation. This new label actually rewarded sites that followed their recommendation, but this would just be the start, and at the time that this new label went into effect, Google said that they saw “these labels as a first step” and that they were “experimenting with using mobile-friendly criteria as a ranking signal.”
This comment caused many web industry experts to speculate that there would be a day where responsive design and support for different screen sizes and devices would actually impact search engine rankings results. It took less than a year for that to predication to become reality.
Google’s Mobile-Friendly Deadline
As of April 21, 2015, Google announced that they “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.”
In a nutshell, this means that Google has gone beyond just suggested that websites should be built using CSS media queries to be mobile-friendly and it even goes further than rewarding responsive sites with a nice designation – this change will clearly impact how websites are ranked in the world’s largest search engine.
This means that mobile-friendliness is now one of the factors that Google will weigh in their ranking algorithm. If they are rewarding websites that follow this industry best practice and which feature a responsive approach to that site’s design and development, then they are essentially penalizing sites that have chosen to ignore these suggestions. For websites looking to gain an advantage online, both in terms of search engine placement and in an improved user experience, there is no better way to do this today than to ensure that a website is mobile-friendly.
To Do List
The bad news about responsive design is because it is a rethinking of a website and how it works and displays, it is rarely something that you can just “add on” to an existing website. To make a site responsive and multi-device friendly often requires that site to be redesigned and redeveloped. If you want to make your site responsive, there will need be an investment of both time and money to make that happen – but the longer you wait to make that investment, the further behind your website will fall.
Online visitors expect more today from the websites they visit on mobile devices. Google has recognized this and they have responded by incentivizing companies who follow their suggestion to make websites mobile-friendly. If your site is not responsive and mobile-friendly today, now is the time to speak to your web agency or team about what steps you need to take to make that happen.