The Google April 21st “Mobile-friendly deadline” is approaching pretty quickly, and with it comes to some changes to the SEO world. Google announced these changes will affect mobile searches in all languages worldwide and will have a significant impact on search results. Though they haven’t specifically outlined the details of the new algorithm, it is certain that it will focus on using mobile friendliness as a ranking criterion. If your website is currently mobile-friendly or you have made plans for it to be before April 21st, get ready to enjoy a potential boost in Google!
A few details regarding the 21st that were released:
- Tablets are not affected.
- A mobile index is being created, which Google will release at a later date.
- Mobile friendliness is determined per page, not by the overall site.
With that in mind, many companies are scrambling to get their websites optimized for mobile devices. For testing your website a couple of great resources are:
Google Webmaster Tools– get a full list of mobile usability issues across your site using the Mobile Usability Report.
Google Developers Mobile-Friendly Test– This test will analyze a URL and report if the page has a mobile-friendly design.
Whether trying to build a completely new, dedicated mobile site or a more costly responsive design, the choice is up to the company. When considering the two, companies should weigh the pros and cons of both sides.
A simple mobile site is a separately constructed, independently functioning site built specifically for mobile devices. Multiple sites are built for each type of resolution or device. Because the site is separate, it offers more design customization. Mobile sites may not have as much content as a regular site, but they feature unique mobile-only options and a more user-friendly navigation system.
Relatively simply to build, mobile sites are a more cost-effective option; however, it may be more costly to update and maintain over their lifetime. Additionally, mobile sites offer a slightly better user experience because of faster conversion rates and load times. When considering SEO practices, mobile sites require canonical tags on sites with duplicate content. For example, if multiple sites exist and cater to different resolutions or devices, each site must use canonical tags to avoid duplicate page issues.
A responsive website works by instructing any mobile device how to display a standard website; therefore, separate sites do not have to be built, and it easily displays across all mobile devices. Responsive sites are better equipped to handle resolution changes within the CSS files, and will always display the website in the best resolution possible.
Responsive sites may be expensive, but they handle updates well, which means lifetime maintenance costs are lower. Updates can be made in one place instead of across multiple versions. Unlike mobile sites, responsive sites do not require canonical labeling, as there will never be an issue with duplicate sites. Though responsive sites are the recommended configuration by Google, they do have slower conversion rates and longer load times, which hamper the user experience.
So, How Do You Decide?
Companies looking to make their sites mobile-friendly should consider the following:
- Up-front cost vs. lifetime cost
- Device flexibility vs. higher conversion rate and faster load times
- Customization vs. easier maintenance and updates
Truly, it will depend on the company’s preferences to decide between a mobile site and responsive design. Either way, both versions will benefit from organic Google search rankings.