As of April 21, 2015 Google has changed mobile search results to favor mobile-friendly sites. Although not officially a penalty the effect is that websites that are not mobile friendly will be pushed down the search results in favor of sites that are. While mobile-friendlyness has been a ranking factor for a while, according to Google’s Official Blog this change will have a “significant impact on search results”. Why is Google taking such a hard and public stance on this issue?  Well lets consider the following mobile web stats from a recent joint Google and Neilson Study.

77% of mobile searches occur at home or work

This holds true even if a PC is nearby and readily available. Gone are the days where you could ignore mobile users simply because your business sells to other businesses or users who are at work.

75% of mobile searches trigger follow-up action.

This means that although mobile traffic still may fall short of the majority on a given website this traffic is very valuable.

  • 36% Continued Research
  • 25% Visited a Retailer’s Website
  • 18% Shared Information
  • 17% Visited a Store
  • 17% Made a Purchase
  • 7% Called a Business

55% of conversions happen within an hour

Mobile searchers are predisposed to action.  These users are low in the funnel and likely have purchase intent. 45% of all mobile searches are done to help make a decision, an number that jumps to 66% if that user happens to be in store.

Mobile users are 55% more likely to notice ads when they are in store.

The research shows that these users are strongly tied to their given context such as time of day and location. Users in stores are twice as likely to make shopping related queries.

This is a key opportunity for marketers to capitalize on these moments and reach users who are ready to act.

What makes a site mobile-friendly?

Most literally a mobile friendly site is one where the the text is large enough to read, links are far enough apart to be easily tapped and the mobile viewport is set so that the layout renders correctly. This can be accomplished either by redirecting a user to a mobile site or through responsive design. If a mobile site is the route chosen just be sure that all desktop pages are redirected to the page on analogous page on the mobile site. Google won’t consider your site mobile friendly if all the desktop pages redirect to the mobile homepage.

Beyond the basics, considering mobile users is not only making sure your website isn’t broken for them but building an experience that works.

Consider your mobile users

What a tasks are mobile users trying to complete. You could also ask your customers or just brainstorm what tasks are likely a priority on mobile and make sure these are easily competed.  Is your phone number easy to find and clickable? Can a user easily access pricing?  If you have a physical location, is your address easy to find and able to be clicked for directions?

Look for friction points

Review your analytics for mobile users looking for points in common user paths where mobile users exit at an higher than normal rate. What pages have a higher than typical bounce rate when comparing mobile to desktop traffic?  What are your most common mobile entry points? If your mobile experience isn’t up to par currently this data may not be reliable but once your being developing for mobile users this will be the key to refinement and ensuring you are delighting these users.

Mobile Site vs. Responsive Web Design

While neither approach is the right in all cases, there is a reason why responsive web design is the more popular approach. It all comes down to a consistent experience. As users move from device to device a consistent experience means users don’t have to relearn how to use your website, reducing friction. For search engines a consistent experience means one URL is one page and there is no need to match up mobile content and desktop content pages which makes determining relevance easier. A consistent experience also means that those who manage website content only have to manage one version of every piece of web content, having a separate mobile website effectively doubles the amount of work for already overworked content managers and content producers.

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