Mark your calendar! Beginning April 21, 2015, Google is once again changing its search algorithm. These upcoming changes are significant because Google will begin looking at the mobile-friendliness of your website as one parameter of how well your site ranks in its search engine. In support of this new algorithm announcement, Google recently started including a “mobile-friendly” label next to websites in mobile search results that actually are mobile-friendly.
Since 2013, Google has consistently said that responsive website design (RWD) provides the best user experience. Responsive website design means the page uses the same URL, the same content, and the same code base whether the user is viewing the website on a desktop computer, tablet, or mobile phone, and only the display adjusts or “responds” according to the screen size. Mobile sites using responsive web design have the edge on having the ability to provide the user with more content than mobile sites have traditionally given. To Google, content is king and so is responsive web design.
Google made a timely announcement in advance of the Mobile World Congress by reinforcing mobile first at the forefront of every one’s mind. With this announcement, Google is putting the heat on companies to adapt their business model to a mobile-first mentality. This will have a trickle-down effect, touching not only the commerce industry, but also network providers who will be forced to become faster and more reliable to keep up with demand. The handheld manufacturers will be in the hot seat as well to provide for the greater demand at a lower cost point.
Responsive website design is good for businesses and the people they serve. For businesses, RWD has the added feature of being both cost- and time-effective, because with only one version of your site to worry about, your overhead is reduced.
For a long time, Google has been touting the mantra that content should be optimized based on device and this algorithm update will help users to easily find relevant high-quality search results no matter which device they use. One thing to note is that Google usually does not promote an agenda so forcefully and openly. The fact that they are doing so now speaks volumes about the importance of RWD.
The algorithm update will affect mobile searches in all languages worldwide and will have a significant impact on mobile search results when the algorithm is released. Sites that continue to ignore RWD will see their search positions—and consequently their traffic—steadily decrease. The announcement also starts the wheels turning on the future landscape of search, as over the next few years, literally billions of people around the world will begin surfing the Internet for the first time via newly ubiquitous smartphones. If you’ve been dragging your feet about mobile optimization, now is really the time to get started!
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