What Is Google's Mobile Friendly Update?

Posted on April 30, 2015

Last week, Google officially rolled out an update that boosts rankings for mobile-friendly pages on mobile search results. Announced earlier in the year, the search engine giant disclosed that with so much traffic now coming via mobile devices, that they would be "expanding our use of mobile-friendliness as a ranking signal. Consequently, users will find it easier to get relevant, high quality search results that are optimized for their devices."

There are some major takeaways from this update:

  • Only Impacts Mobile Device Search Results: This update won't have any impact on your Google rankings for non-mobile devices. So those people who are surfing the internet at home on their computer aren't seeing anything different.
  • Page Based, Not Site Based: The mobile-friendly update is on a page to page basis and not for the entirety of a website. You aren't going to be knocked down the search results page as a whole if you have non-responsive pages, but those individual pages won't do as well.
  • Worldwide: All languages globally will have their search results affected as a result of the update.

The proliferation of mobile phones and tablets has unquestionably led to a new way of users accessing the web and how they absorb content. A desktop user likely won't bat an eye at reading a several paragraph article on their oversized computer monitor if interested in the subject, but a mobile user wants to immediately get the information they need and move on.

Understanding your site visitors and their needs is paramount in deciding how important a responsive design is to your site. Some of our restaurant, breweries, and other highly mobile accessed clients have roughly half of all traffic coming from mobile devices. Our software, real estate, and select service based clients have as little as 2% of their traffic coming from mobile devices. Clearly having a responsive design is more important to some over others.

Responsiveness is only going to grow in importance as more and more users take the internet with them everywhere. Virtually every new website we design and develop is responsive, but the first thing you need to do is determine if your site needs it now or later. Monitor your traffic as it exists today. If half is using your non-responsive site via cell phones and tablets, it is likely a good idea to move forward with updating to a mobile friendly design. If only a small percentage of your visitors are accessing your site from a mobile device, you might be okay with delaying the upgrade for the time being.

No matter how much traffic you are currently getting from mobile devices, responsive website design is not going away. It's just simply a matter of when you can afford to make it happen.

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