SEO Mobile Readiness and “Mobilegeddon”

By Peter Kent

In 2015, Google introduced another important concept for webmasters to worry about when it comes to SEO: mobile readiness. By this point, a huge proportion of website visits, for a wide range of site types, were coming from mobile devices.

For example, the site analytics for a heavy industrial client revealed that around 29 percent of the traffic came from small mobile devices (smart phones), with another 13 percent from tablets. It isn’t just the younger Internet users or the more technically adept that are moving to mobile. Across the board, a huge proportion of site visits now comes from mobile devices.

However, some sites see much higher percentages. Google has said that it expects overall search queries on mobile devices to exceed desktop searches (within the United States).

That’s been true for some time, but what put the SEO world in a tizzy was when Google started talking about how it was going to start taking into consideration how a site would display on a mobile device, and factor that into ranking for when a search was carried out from such a device. (In an example of typical SEO-world drama, this change was labeled by many as Mobilegeddon.)

That is, if your site doesn’t display well on a smart phone, it might not rank as well when someone searches from a smart phone. (Not surprisingly, there’s no effect on regular-size devices; in fact, laptops aren’t considered mobile devices from this perspective, and tablets are explicitly excluded by Google from this issue — it’s the smart phone searches that are the SEO problem).

So, what’s it mean to you? If you’re about to build a new site, you really should plan to build a mobile-friendly site; that’s easier than you might imagine, as many recent versions of CMS tools can do this for you automatically. If you already have a site … well, that’s a problem; it might take a lot of work to rebuild.

However, most websites aren’t mobile friendly; thus, many of your competitors probably don’t have mobile friendly sites, limiting the “damage.” Long term, this could cause your business serious problems.

There are essentially three ways to make a site mobile friendly:

  • Responsive Design: This uses sophisticated HTML to automatically change the layout of a site’s web pages to suit the particular device on which it is being displayed. It’s probably the most popular method these days.

    Google recommends responsive design.

  • Dynamic Serving: With this method, you have two versions of your website: one for smart phones, and another for larger devices. The web server decides which version to send when a page is requested.

  • Separate URLs: In this case, you have two versions of your site. The server directs the user to the most appropriate site, on a different URL, depending on the device.

Here are a couple of pages to show you more: