Google recently sent waves through the SEO community by announcing on the Google webmaster blog that they would be updating their mobile search rules to favour sites that are compatible with mobile devices effective April 21st, 2015.
This means that as of April 21st if your website is not mobile-friendly you could see a major drop in mobile traffic.
Google’s move makes sense: their users want it. According to recent research, around 80% of internet users own a smartphone. And obviously a smartphone user is going to be much happier when they are served a phone-friendly page. Google is likely also motivated by the fact that last year mobile traffic eclipsed desktop traffic in what Search Engine Watch called “the biggest shift since the internet began.”
Why should you care?
Because as an industry we’re not ready!
According to the State of the Nation Survey, most Canadian charity websites are not mobile-friendly. Only 26% of all respondents had an operational mobile-friendly website. Though many are “working towards” being mobile-friendly (22%), I’m concerned that we may not be moving fast enough.
In addition to its relationship to SEO, there are plenty of other reasons to be mobile-friendly. For one thing, it means that your website is accessible to your donor base whenever they want it: on the go or at home. For another, it’s likely that the future of the web is in mobile–after all, we are raising a generation of children on hand-me-down iPhones.
What Should You Do?
Step 1: Evaluate your Site For Mobile Friendliness
The easiest way to evaluate your site’s mobile compatibility is to use online Mobile-Friendly Test: https://www.google.com/webmasters/tools/mobile-friendly/. If you pass, congratulations – you are ready! If not, read on.
Step 2: Considering your Options
This is where things get complicated. You may actually have to talk to your web developer and discuss your options with them. Websites are complicated machines, and making one mobile-friendly is not as simple as flipping a switch.
In some cases, all it takes is a few tweaks to make your website compatible (such as installing a new theme within WordPress). But in others the website may need to be completely rebuilt from the ground up. The level of investment required for mobile-readiness depends on many factors, such as age and the platform on which it was built.
Don’t forget, it’s important that the site not only look mobile friendly, but it’s mobile friendly according to Google. To be sure, test with with Google’s mobile-friendliness test tool. There are lots of sites that will appear on a smartphone, and will even have the “hamburger menu”. But there are other code issues that means that it’s not fully mobile according to Google.
Be as ready as you can be
As April 21st “M-Day” looms ever nearer, you will need to make some major organizational decisions about whether to embrace the new mobile world – or end up as an outsider looking in.
I hope I’ve helped show you the enormous importance of mobile-friendly design, especially since Google’s announcement. Though it may seem like a hassle now, having a mobile-friendly website will pay dividends as time goes on and mobile Internet usage grows.
So, if the future is mobile, the future is bright. For now, let’s just try to make it past April 21st.
If you would like to take a look at the full report you can download it here. If you would like to discuss it, send me a tweet. I would love to hear from you. You can reach the report authors here: Fraser Green, Holly Wagg and yours truly,Todd Jamieson.