In case you haven’t noticed, we are way past the mobile tipping point. Experts had predicted that by the year 2014, more people around the globe would interact with the Internet by using a mobile device instead of a desktop or laptop.
This trend continues to grow, and the statistics are staggering. Consumers have become accustomed to conducting research for brick and mortar establishments on the go, with many resorting to third-party review sites like Yelp or TripAdvisor to help them obtain more information about a business.
In addition to using third-party review sites, many consumers, particularly those with high loyalty to a particular establishment, resort to their mobile devices when they need to find specific information about a business, such as hours of operation, cost of services, or contact information.
In light of how usability and device popularity has evolved, Google has been warning users for years now about the importance of responsive design.
Google’s emphasis on “RWD”
Responsive design, also known as RWD, is an approach to Web design where sites are intentionally coded to work across a myriad of devices, providing usable environments that deliver easy viewing, user-friendly navigation, and full access to content and functionality, with minimal resizing, panning, and scrolling.
If you have ever landed on a non-responsive site, then you are probably aware of the frustration of trying to resize, move panels around, and access information in a quick and easy fashion.
Because Google seeks to deliver optimal and relevant experiences to those using their search engine, they have finally decided to take action through the penalization of sites that are non-responsive. They are now prioritizing those sites that have taken the time to incorporate a responsive design aimed at serving information in a user-friendly fashion across all devices.
(Check out: “6 Super Tips to Get Your Business Mobile-Ready”)
Why Does This Matter to Business Organizations?
Just a quick look at your Google Analytics report will demonstrate how a significant portion of the traffic hitting your site originates from a variety of mobile devices.
If you have a good number of regular customers who depend on your site for information, and regularly search for your business by name instead of going directly to your URL, then chances are without a responsive design you are going to take a hit in terms of ranking.
Your site, which most likely ranks #1 for your brand name, may be deprioritized, allowing external sites that are already compliant with mobile responsiveness to move up in rank. Don’t be surprised if Yelp, OpenTable, and TripAdvisor now supersede you, Vitals.com, or other third-party review sites, pushing your homepage to a lower ranking in local search results.
Review Sites May Help You Bridge the Gap
Truth be told, making the required changes to ensure your site is mobile-responsive may not be a very easy task. Additionally, if you are a small to medium business, then it’s unlikely you have the in-house resources to make such changes quickly and accurately.
Thankfully, third-party review sites are always early adopters of technologies, and pretty much every single one out there is already coded to be mobile-responsive. Chances are that your Yelp profile, and perhaps a couple of local directories, may push you down from the top of the search results for your name, and your Google+ profile will show up as number one.
To make sure your customers receive informational continuity, it would be wise to set aside time to ensure your third-party review-site profiles in the most prominent sites are under your control and reflect the most updated information about your business, including appealing multimedia such as pictures and videos.
While it is not ideal that other sites replace your number one position in Google, you can still control what your current and potential customers view. By ensuring your brand is well represented in these sites, bridge the gap of engagement until you are able to finalize the revisions to the code or theme required to make your site mobile-responsive.
Some Ideas on How Other Enterprises Are Tackling This Change
The very first step is for your IT team to fully understand what it means to develop a site that is mobile- responsive.
To that end, it would make sense to become familiar with the Google Guide for Developers for Responsive Web Design.
In addition, if you are already using Google Analytics and Google Webmaster Tools, and your site is not yet fully mobile-responsive, then you should have received a report that documents the specific errors and pages that deliver subpar responsive experiences to your users.
Armed with the guidelines along with your error report, your development team can seek out the most cost- and time-effective coding solution. Depending on how your site is coded, this may be a complex procedure that demands code revisions across many pages, or as simple as changing your WordPress theme.
If you are fortunate enough to have a WordPress-based CMS for your site, then you may want to opt for a Bootstrap theme, which should set the stage for a successful upgrade from your current design to mobile-responsive design.
When moving forward with changes to your site, to ensure compliance with Google’s new algorithm, make sure the changes are made with quality in mind, and the pages are tested for usability in a variety of devices.
If you don’t know if your site is mobile responsive, then you can use this tool created by Google that will analyze your site and provide you with an assessment to better understand where you stand, so you can make a decision on how to proceed and begin updates and upgrades if needed and relevant.