Many brands are already making the leap to mobile-centric designs, and those that have not are likely in for a rude awakening sooner than they realize.
Google gently suggested the switch to mobile-friendly code over a year ago, and in November they flat out said that mobile-friendly sites will receive a stamp of approval on results. Now, they are issuing an ultimatum: sites that do not have their designs adjusted to become mobile-ready by April 21st will see real consequences in their search engine rankings.
How Badly Will It Hurt Business?
Say a brand wanted to play “chicken” with Google and brush aside their warnings. One Twitter user even downplayed the whole affair by estimating that only around 1% of total organic traffic would be reduced.
Playing devil’s advocate, the website Search Engine Land crunched some numbers and determined that, while the average site would only see about a 4% reduction in total traffic, this factor represented as much as 41% of mobile traffic.
Websites that scoff at the notion of Google’s penalty will end up having their rankings bumped down around 5 spots from this decrease. This amount could be huge considering the prestigious click through rate of higher rankings, especially on the smaller display real estate of mobile devices.
Since most eCommerce websites will see mobile customers at a rate of 30-60%, these penalties can potentially result in millions of lost dollars over several quarters for the biggest players.
How to Prepare
Luckily, Google has included some friendly suggestions along with their threatening finger wagging. First, they strongly suggest using responsive design, even going as far as outright stating responsive sites will be favored by the new algorithm. In their own words:
“Responsive web design or RWD means that the page uses the same URL and the same code whether the user is on a desktop computer, tablet, or mobile phone — only the display adjusts or ‘responds’ according to the screen size. Google recommends using RWD over other design patterns.”
Considering the emphasis is their own, brands will likely not take the suggestion lightly. They will benefit from this approach, too, since it means having one convenient domain and a consistent layout that adjusts to the display resolution of the visiting customer’s device.
Given the popularity of tablets and “feature phones” — big phones like the iPhone 6 Plus and the Samsung Galaxy Note — a responsive design would appeal more to a broader base of visitors rather than just a stable of typical smartphone users.
Other suggestions included avoiding use of Flash content, which will not display on Apple devices, and implementing HTML5 content embedding instead.
Testing the Waters
One of the simplest things a brand can do to double check that they have done everything right is to use Google’s own mobile friendly site evaluator that analyzes any site and gives recommendations based on their algorithm.
Testing the site with a multitude of devices and with several types of users can also help identify and iron out kinks in time for the April 21st deadline.
Brands who are able to keep up with Google’s recommendations will be doing themselves a favor, as more and more eCommerce customers are migrating to mobile as their primary means of web access. At Thrive Commerce, our mobile Savings Center product already meets Google’s new mobile guidelines – to learn more, visit our website.