Having a mobile-friendly website isn’t just a vital part of creating a good user experience, it has the power to make or break your search engine ranking.
Search engines like Google, Bing, and Yahoo are paying more and more attention to mobile devices. In 2014, Google began tagging results that aren’t optimized for mobile devices in searches. If your site isn’t properly optimized for mobile users, searchers will be warned about it when they see you appear on the results page. Google unveiled another mobile-friendly update to its search engine in the spring of 2015. This update made having a mobile-friendly site design a stronger ranking factor for mobile searches.
Websites that weren’t properly optimized for mobile felt the impact of these changes-including sites as large as Reddit, NBC Sports, and Upworthy.
Did you notice a decline in traffic, too?
If so, your website design may not be appealing to mobile users.
Why You Need a Mobile Optimized Website- Right Now
This new ranking factor only impacts mobile search results, right? You’re still popping up in search results for desktop users… so what’s the big deal?
Don’t be too quick to dismiss the smartphone.
This means that if your website isn’t optimized for mobile browsers, you aren’t visible to commuters browsing the web on the morning train. You’re missing leads from people checking their phones during a commercial break. You’re losing people who use their phones to check Google for an answer to a question.
That’s a lot of lost leads.
A quick test can show you what your site looks like on a mobile device, and tell you whether or not your site is properly optimized.
How To Tell If Your Site Is Mobile-Friendly
It’s fairly simple to test whether or not your website is mobile-friendly. Just whip out your phone and open up your site.
- Can you read everything, or is the font too small?
- Does the layout translate well to a smaller screen, or do you have any graphics or adds overlapping your text?
- Can you click on any links or responsive elements easily, or are they too close together?
If you want to get more in-depth with your analysis, both Google and Bing have you covered. These quick tests will evaluate a page for mobile-friendliness, and show you an example of how the search engine sees that page on a mobile-device.
So what should you do if your mobile design is less than awesome?
The Design Pattern That Smartphones Love
There are three common ways to make your website mobile-friendly, one of which has proven to be much more effective than the others:
- Using separate URLs: This technique creates separate URLs for your site’s mobile users. (Often done by adding an “m” for mobile to the URL, as in: m.yourwebsite.com.) This forces you to create a duplicate version of your site, and can cause link-building issues. You have to make sure all of your redirects point to the right pages. Plus, you may lose traffic if you get an inbound link that takes readers to your desktop site, not your mobile site, or vice versa.
- Dynamic serving: This method works by sensing the type of device your readers are using (called user-agents) and then presenting them with different HTML if they’re on a mobile device. This can lead to issues if there’s a mistake in how your site detects user-agents. An error can lead to desktop users seeing your mobile site, or mobile users seeing your desktop site.
- Responsive design: A responsive site uses the same URLs and the same HTML across all devices. It works by using CSS to alter the site’s pages for mobile devices, making sure your content fits on every screen.
Creating a responsive website is a simple way to create a website design that’s consistent and mobile-friendly.
If that didn’t convince you, then this might: search engines love responsive websites. But don’t take our word for it. A responsive design is Google’s recommended design pattern.
Common Mistakes To Avoid
In addition to using a responsive website design, there are a few other steps you can take to improve user experience on the mobile version of your website.
Make sure you avoid these common design mistakes.
- Avoid unplayable videos and other inaccessible content. For example, certain mobile devices don’t support flash content. Avoid bogging your website down with elements that are unavailable to mobile users- this creates a much more frustrating user experience.
- Pay attention to font size. If your font is too small or too busy it will be hard to read on a small phone screen.
- Don’t position links too close together. When you’re setting up links and other interactive elements of your site, keep in mind that mobile users will need to be able to use their touch screens to select them. If they’re too close, readers won’t be able to use your links properly.
- Avoid pop-ups and promotions that interfere with user experience. Some sites use pop-ups or promotions designed to show up on screen when the user opens a certain page. Keep in mind that what might be a small ad on a desktop screen can occupy the entire screen on a smartphone, and prevent users from accessing your site.
- Pay attention to mobile site speed. Having a slow mobile site can be one of the biggest reasons your website doesn’t attract traffic. Smartphone users pay good money for their data plans- they won’t waste that data waiting around for your site to load.
A bad user experience will drive users back to the search results. With over half of all digital media consumption happening on mobile devices, it’s critical to pay just as much attention to optimizing your website for mobile users as you do for desktop users.
Today, when people have a question they pull out their smartphone to search for the answers. By making sure your website shows up in their search results, you’re giving yourself the chance to prove that the content, product or service you offer is just the answer they’re looking for.