WARNING: TOMORROW YOUR MOBILE UNFRIENDLY WEB SITE WILL REACH THROUGH YOUR SMART PHONE AND STRANGLE YOUR BUSINESS TO DEATH!
No, I'm not being melodramatic. If your web site is not mobile-friendly, you are in deep, deep trouble. You can find out your fate immediately by using Google's Mobile-Friendly Test at https://www.google.com/webmasters/tools/mobile-friendly/. After the tool does its work, what you want to see more than anything else is this:
If you don't see that, the end is truly near. We'll explain why, and then we'll throw you a rope. Read on...if you DARE.
What do you mean, "mobile friendly?"
If your site is "mobile-friendly," it means that the whole of your content can be seen in the smartphone screen without someone needing to zoom in. It means that your links and buttons aren't too close together. It means your images are not enormous files you've just made smaller using your content management system's re-sizer. There are hundreds of other details that make a site mobile-friendly, but most of all, "mobile-friendly" means that, despite the many ways that smartphones are not like computers, your site is still usable to all the people viewing it, even those who are waiting in line at the post office or on the train to work or at the park with their kids.
It means you care about your web site users enough to make their lives easier when they're looking at your site on their smart phones. Mobile-friendly sites show them, subtly, that you want to meet them where they are.
That's all very nice, but why should I care if Google thinks my site is mobile-friendly? Can't my customers just zoom in?
Sure, if your customers can ever find your site.
As of April 21, 2015, Google, a search engine so iconic that its very name has become the default term for "find that information online," will begin ranking web sites that are easy to browse on a smart phone HIGHER in its rankings than sites that are not easy to browse on a smart phone. Depending on how niche your site is, that might mean your forward-thinking competitors could be several notches to several PAGES of notches ahead of yours in the list of sites Google returns to people searching for something that they could find on your web site, if only your site was "mobile-friendly." This goes for the Google search conducted on a mobile device and the Google search conducted on a computer.
Imagine someone desperate for a local acupuncturist in your (imaginary) town of Marloville. They pull out their smart phone and use Google to search for "acupuncturist Marloville." There are twelve acupuncturists in Marloville, and eight more in neighboring towns that serve the people of Marloville, and say so on their web sites. If your web site is not mobile-friendly, and the other acupuncturist sites are, then your site will show up on the second or maybe even the third page. When was the last time you clicked on the third page of search results?
Where on earth do I start? What could be wrong?
There are so many little rules about mobile-friendliness that it would be best for you to review some tips written by the experts. In this case, the work of heavy-duty geeks like programmers and engineers and the work of marketing/search engine optimization experts have converged.
- The Mobile-Friendly Checklist from Conductor Blog
- Making Your Website Mobile-Friendly from Hubspot
- Three Things You Need to Check Right Now from Launch Digital Marketing
The motherload of great articles on what some people are calling "Mobilegeddon" is at Search Engine Land (of course). Though most have great practical advice to share, my favorite is Adam Dorfman's article "Putting 'Mobilegeddon' in Perspective," wherein he says the following:
- "Even if your content lacks mobile friendliness and you fail to show up in search results, all is not lost. You can still very quickly make changes and see improvements; and Google will not put you in a penalty box if you fail to optimize your site by April 21."
- "If you are close to getting a mobile site launched and worried it won’t be ready by April 21st, don’t bust your budget to make a fix. Adopt change at a pace that is right for your organization, and once you have a mobile-friendly site, the benefits of implementing this should happen quickly."
If today is the first you're hearing of this "mobile-friendly" stuff, or the first time you're taking it seriously, know that you can't likely fix the problem by tomorrow. Dorfman's point is that Google will not pass judgement tomorrow and then never look at your site again. You can and should take the time to make these changes well, even incorporating them into a larger set of web site improvements.
Until then, maybe just don't Google yourself.