The holidays are upon us and as you read this post, you may be pulling double duty on your favorite shopping sites, in search of the perfect last minute gift. Perhaps you didn’t realize it, but Google - the gigantic search engine - went out of their way to get you a gift this year. However, it’s possible that this gift wasn’t on your list. And sort of like would happen if your brother bought his nephews (your sons) a puppy for Christmas, their gift might lead to you needing to spend some money to gain enjoyment from it.
Google has, in the span of six months decided to move from mobile readiness being a factor in where your site ranks in search engines to being one of the primary ranking factors.
In this post, I’m going to explain what’s going on with mobile websites, how you can find out if it affects you and what to do next.
Welcome to “mobile-first indexing”. Now that more and more searches on Google happen on mobile each year, they want their search index and the results you see to represent the majority of their audience - mobile searchers. What does this mean for you?
The company that controls much of the traffic to your site is raising the bar on what’s required for your website to continue getting traffic from Google. Instead of seeing your sites desktop version and showing the desktop version to people searching for your services Google will see your site as if it only existed on mobile.
Since 2014, there have been at least two search engine indexes (mobile and desktop) but going forward it will eventually be just one. According to online magazine Search Engine Land, “Google has started to use the mobile version of the web as their primary search engine index.”
In their official post, Google told us, “Our search index will continue to be a single index of websites and apps, our algorithms will eventually primarily use the mobile version of a site’s content to rank pages from that site.”
How big a problem is this for you? You can find out in the next minute by opening up your smart phone and pulling up your website on the phone’s browser. Is the print easy to read? Are all of your sites pages visible? Can you navigate from page to page easily? What about the pictures? Can you see them? Do they load quickly?
If you answered yes to my questions, awesome! If you had some “no’s” mixed in with your “yes” answers you may have a problem and you should proceed to a second 1-minute test. Go here: https://search.google.com/search-console/mobile-friendly and enter your site’s URL in the box at the top. In a few seconds Google will tell you if your site meets their basic criteria for being “mobile-friendly”. There are 3 different types of results you can expect. First would be a passing grade. For a few years now many new sites were built to be “mobile responsive” or mobile friendly. If you have a responsive design, your site resizes for the device that is visiting. Mobile phones see a smaller version of the site but all of the content and pages are the same. This is the best solution for every site owner.
A second group of owners are those who were proactive a few years ago when it was clear that more and more internet search was being conducted on phones and tablets. These folks invested in a “mobile” version of their site, however that mobile version may or may not have solved the challenge you now face. If you have a mobile site visitors are redirected to the mobile version automatically when someone visits from a phone or tablet. If the address of your mobile site is m.yourdomain.com or some variation of that, then you have a mobile site. This solution can work but I’ll caution you because technically you have two different websites. In many cases there will be different pages and varying content on each. For now, make sure both sites represent your business well but make a plan to eliminate the separate mobile version by upgrading your website to a responsive design at your earliest opportunity.
The third group of sites are those that simply aren’t set up for mobile visitors. These sites are hard to see and nearly impossible to read. It’s true that when asked Google says “Don’t worry” if you don’t have a mobile site. They tell us they’ll “Crawl your desktop version instead”. I would, however, not delay in getting this resolved. If your competitors all have quality mobile sites and you don’t, I would expect that to eventually take its toll on your business.
It’s also possible that if you don’t have a mobile site that your desktop site is old and in need to a major update too. Since Google ranks sites they feel are the best, its always a good idea to own one of the best roofing sites in your area. Let’s say you passed the mobile test with flying colors - your results show you do have a mobile site and it represents your business well. Is there something you can do to gain an advantage over your competitors? Yes - Google is measuring many things in deciding where to rank your site, but one you may not think much about is actually one of the biggest factors. It’s the speed of your site.
So before we do any victory dances, let’s check this quickly. Go over to the Google Speed Tool and run the test. With some mystery and magic, Google is going to test both your mobile and desktop versions of your site and tell you how fast they load and if there are problems, where to find them. Once you know if there is a problem, you may need your web guy to help you get everything working as needed. Finding out and addressing site speed issues makes a lot of sense when almost half of web users expect your site to load in 2 seconds or less.
In the last few minutes I’ve explained the changes coming to your favorite search engine and how it may affect your roofing business. We’ve discussed three simple tests you can run to determine if this is a problem for you or if you’re free to get on with your holiday celebrations.
If you’ve passed these tests, congrats. You should be well positioned for more visibility in search engines, more visits to your site and hopefully a healthy increase in your leads and sales in the new year.