It’s been coined “Mobilegeddon” because it caught many small businesses by surprise. On April 21st, Google – which is used for approximately two-thirds of online searches – made a major update to its search algorithm that changes how websites are ranked when users search for something from their phone.
Mobile-friendly websites will now get a more favorable Google ranking. For example, responsive websites that resize to fit whatever screen they’re viewed on will move ahead along with sites with large text and easy-to-click links.
An estimated 40% of businesses are not mobile-friendly, according to USA Today, and will likely drop in search rankings because of Google’s new algorithm. The percentage of small businesses affected is estimated to be even higher.
Google often changes its algorithm, usually with no notice, in order to limit companies’ abilities to game the Google ranking system. In February, the company made an unprecedented announcement that this change was coming, and even gave tips on how to prepare, yet many small businesses owners claim that this change took them by surprise. Google even published a “Mobile-Friendly” test page in its developer section that anybody can and could use to see if a website is mobile-friendly according to these new algorithms.
USA TODAY tested many top brands with the Google test and reports that while many passed the test, several did not, including some large companies such as California Pizza Kitchen, Versace, and European airline, Ryanair. The website, TechCrunch, found that 44% of the Fortune 500 companies failed the mobile-friendly test.
Small businesses that don’t have the budgets of a Fortune 500 company are now scrambling to try to make their websites mobile-friendly in order to prevent any loss in ranking and sales. USA Today provided these tips:
- As a short-term fix, make sure local information is current and up-to-date in Yelp and on Google’s MyBusiness section, since most local businesses are found these days through directory services like Yelp and Google’s local search listings.
- Call a local website host. Many have tools in place to transition websites. For instance, GoDaddy, the top provider of website addresses and hosting, offers a tool to completely rebuild a website to make it mobile-friendly and charges $1 monthly for the service.
- Go to a service like dudamobile for a more robust, yet smaller version of a website, starting at $5 per month.
- Get in touch with a local Web developer to farm out the work so that the mobile-friendly website site will look more like the original site.
With Google taking the lead in placing more importance on mobile in its ranking algorithm, the other search engines will likely follow. Businesses will now need to pay close attention to their websites’ ability to elegantly deliver information to people over any device.
There are a number of tools to help small businesses and nonprofits cost-effectively develop a website that provides relevant content, is mobile-friendly, and easily updated.