11 Mar April 21st: The Date To Be Responsive
It’s being called ‘Mobilegeddon’. April 21st is the date that Google launch a new mobile-specific search engine algorithm update, and we’re expecting the results to be quite dramatic for some websites.
Google has been warning webmasters for some time that it is soon going to factor mobile-friendliness into its algorithm, and sites that do not cater for mobile users will be at a disadvantage when compared to those optimised for mobile access. Since mobile traffic is rapidly encroaching on 50% of traffic for the majority of websites, it is a market that is no longer possible to ignore, whether you are a web design company, a business, or – as now is the case – Google search results themselves.
The explosion in the mobile market basically followed the launch of the iPhone, where mobile internet browsing became more accessible, user-friendly and devices finally possessed screen sizes that made internet browsing a pleasure rather than a chore. Since then, not all websites have kept pace. For the last year or so, almost all web companies have switched to designing responsive websites unless specifically requested not to. But websites that are older than 18 months run a risk of being static (ie. not responsive, and incapable of responding to smaller screen sizes dynamically). It is these websites that Google are targeting in the next algorithm update.
Google haven’t released a huge number of details about what’s coming on April 21st, but there have been hints. Gary Illyes, Google Webmaster Trends Analyst, recently shared some tidbits:
- Responsive design does not have a ranking benefit
- Mobile friendliness is determined at the page level – not sitewide
- Tablets will not be affected by this update
- Google is currently working on a dedicated mobile index
If you’re still living with a static website fronting up your business, now is the time to set that change in motion.
If fear of a Google punishment isn’t quite enough, then perhaps consider the positive advantages of a responsive website. It’s linked to far higher rates of sales conversion on mobile sites, increased sharing of content on social media, better brand awareness and increased marketing efficiency. Like it or not, mobile internet browsing is here to stay. It’s not a fad, or a momentary footnote in digital history – it’s an evolving trend, one that is taking over an ever-increasing share of the market, and one that isn’t going anywhere any time soon. With wearable tech and further experimentation with technologies like Oculus Rift and Project Morpheus, it seems that other, even more innovative ways of accessing your content online are just around the corner. By 2020, having a desktop-only website may well be akin to only storing music on cassette tapes in 2016.