Recently, we’ve seen a lot of articles and tweets from digital agencies proclaiming “Mobilegeddon” is coming on 21st April (argh, that’s tomorrow!). And, coincidentally, all you have to do to avoid the apocalypse is commission them to build a responsive website.

The truth is that nobody really knows this to be a fact. While Google has made an announcement, the exact nature of its search algorithms have always been a closely guarded secret.

So, what do we know?

Mobile-friendliness is already a ranking factor

In 2013, Google started to use whether a website was properly configured for use on smartphones as a ranking factor, while last year they started to promote websites that had been developed for multiple devices (AKA Responsive Web Design).

These changes will only affect searches from mobile devices

As Google are always working to deliver the most relevant results for any given user’s current context, they not only take into account the keywords entered, but also the device being used and it’s location.

It’s not imperative to have a responsive website

While a responsive website will usually show up as “Mobile-Friendly” in search results, so will a stand-alone mobile website. For instance, uses separate mobile and desktop sites, which is shown will depend on the type of device requesting the site. This passes Google’s Mobile Friendly test as you can see from the result.

What can you do?

Ok, so that may have alleviated some of you qualms, but even if you already have a responsive or stand-alone mobile site, that may not be enough.

Your website needs to be properly configured

Google provides information on selecting your mobile configuration based on the way you serve mobile vs desktop experiences. Getting this wrong will result in your website being marked as not mobile-friendly, even if it is.

Responsive design isn’t just about adapting to device width

Some responsive sites will fail the Mobile-Friendly test, as they only respond to reductions in screen width by stacking content. Failure could come from not considering readability and usability. If you’re not sure, run your site through Google’s Mobile-Friendly test and see if it passes.

Speed is set to become a factor too

When Responsive Web Design is executed well it leads to a quick and usable experience for all, but too often, less experienced developers will create a site that’s much slower than it could (and should) be.

While it’s not part of the latest update to the algorithm, page speed is an important factor for users, with most expecting a mobile site to load within 3‑5 seconds.

Google have recently been experimenting with the slow label. Similar to the Mobile-Friendly label, it shows users when a site takes a long time to load, and if history is any indicator could soon be part of the ranking algorithm. You might therefore want to take a look at Google’s Page Speed rules and see how your site measures up using Page Speed Insights.

But, do you need to do anything?

If you’re unsure about how this change is going to affect you, then you probably don’t know your users well enough. Rather than churning out a rushed solution to a problem that’s not fully understood, it would be more beneficial to start with some research.

  • What percentage of your website’s visitors use mobile devices?
  • What are the conversion rates on mobile and desktop?
  • What percentage of your incoming traffic comes from Google?

Once we know these things, we can find a solution that fits your site and your business perfectly. And even if that solution is what you originally envisaged, you’ll have a better understanding of why, and be able to make more informed decisions in the future.