Get Mobile, or Risk Getting Lost

June 16, 2015 Tech4BusinessNow Article

By: Terri Coles

Is your website mobile-friendly? If not, your customers will have a harder time finding you as search engines increasingly reward such websites in search results.

Google recently changed its algorithm to give greater prominence to web properties that ensure people using mobile devices aren’t subjected to a frustrating experience. Microsoft’s Bing also is assessing the degree to which it rewards mobile-friendly sites.

No matter which search engine your customers are using, it’s crucial to adjust for the fact that people increasingly are searching via mobile devices.

In other words, the challenge for business owners isn’t how any one search engine is tweaking its algorithm, said Christina Adams, owner and strategist at Antenna Social Media & Design. Instead, business owners must respond to the growing use of mobile technology, she said.

In early 2014, Internet usage on mobile devices exceeded that on desktops, according to Search Engine Watch. Almost everyone using the Internet on mobile devices—99.5%—is doing so to access content and information, according to Online Publishers Association/Frank N. Magid Associates.

That’s an overwhelming percentage of people using mobile devices who could miss out on your business if your site isn’t mobile-friendly.

“Over 80% of Internet users own a smartphone and yet many businesses have websites that aren’t compatible with mobile browsing,” Adams said. “Visitors from a smartphone or other mobile device will encounter a negative experience with websites that are not mobile-friendly, and this can mean the direct loss of business and a tarnished reputation.”

How Friendly Is Your Site?

Google’s new search algorithm essentially punishes businesses whose websites don’t allow for a mobile browsing experience. (The new search algorithm applies even when people are searching from their desktop computers.)

Meanwhile, Microsoft’s Bing Mobile Relevance Team is also researching sites’ mobile experience—read about their criteria here.

Google’s criteria include factors like whether your website uses mobile-unfriendly Flash, the size of the website’s text, whether your design is optimized to adjust for screen size and how easy it is to tap the site’s links on a small screen.

This is great news if your site already meets those criteria; bad news if it doesn’t. Still, there are steps you can take to improve the odds your prospective customers will find—and enjoy using—your website.

What You Can Do

Check to see whether your existing site is mobile friendly. Google has a simple online tool that lets you check any website. Given that Google is checking for mobile-friendliness page by page, consider using this tool to check each of your website’s pages. Bing is developing a similar tool.

For many developers, optimizing for mobile is standard practice. Generally, websites on platforms such as WordPress or Squarespace are automatically made mobile-friendly by the platform’s templates. If you’re building a site for a new business or undertaking a redesign, optimizing for mobile browsing is essential.

“Businesses need to ask their marketers or Web developers to ensure that their new site is responsive, meaning the visual design will expand or contract or otherwise change for different device sizes,” Adams said. “They can also ask if there are other ways to make it mobile friendly—for example, ensuring that telephone numbers are listed as text so that smartphone users can simply click on the number to make a call.”

If you already have a site and it isn’t fully optimized for mobile, SitePoint, a content site for Web professionals, [] has useful tips on improving mobile performance.

The key thing to remember is that behind every online search is a person asking a question, Adams said.

Providing the right content to your customers earns the attention of your target market and builds your credibility, she said. For example, if your customers can’t load your page because it has Flash that doesn’t work on their phones, they’re unlikely to come back later to find the information you couldn’t provide at that moment.

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