As a business, having a company website is a must, but you probably already know that. It’s hard to stand out amidst the competition or contend with market forces like Amazon if you don’t.
But simply having a website isn’t enough, even if you primarily use your site to generate leads rather than ecommerce. The question you need to ask is: Is your website mobile friendly?
Why Mobile Optimization is So Important
Almost everyone (94% of people with a smartphone) will do searches for local information from their device, and more than three quarters of them (77%) will do those searches from locations that are likely to have an actual computer in easy reach, namely at home and at work. That’s a major factor for why Google officially rolled out its “mobile-friendly” label on search results years ago—so that people using it would have the best possible browsing experience. This later became a ranking signal used for searches on a mobile device, and other search engines followed Google’s lead.
As you probably know, pages that weren’t mobile friendly were penalized, which is to say that they were down-ranked in results to favor pages that are easy to use from various devices. Mobile searches are now so ubiquitous that the label is going away, but the ranking signal remains the same. In fact, Google is strengthening its emphasis on mobile—there are rumors the ranking signal will be used in all searches, not just those from mobile devices, and it recently confirmed rolling out a new signal pertaining to mobile screen real estate and intrusive interstitials (e.g., popup ads, hero images that push actual content below the fold). It’s even made the down-rank penalty for non-mobile-friendly sites more severe. (Fortunately, content is still the strongest ranking signal, as is matching search intent.)
This has a definitive impact on your brand’s visibility, as well as lead generation and conversions. However, as important as SEO and SEM are, search engine algorithms underscore what actually matters: the user experience. What does that mean? It’s about more than the ability to load or look good on a mobile device.
Customers that visit your website want to be able to read content, view media, and find exactly what they’re looking for with a simple swipe. Early on, mobile optimization often meant having a separate mobile site, but thanks to the fact that people can use everything from their phone to their TV to browse the web, there’s something easier.
Responsive websites allow you to design your site in a way that will automatically adjust and scale based on the device being used. This adds a further element of consistency for your brand: the content a user finds on your site via desktop is the same content they’ll see on their phone or tablet.
3 Steps to Test Your Site’s Mobile Optimization
Knowing that you need to have a site that’s optimized for mobile is one thing, and ensuring that it is up to par is another. We’ve put together three steps you can use to examine how mobile friendly your site really is.
1. Test with Real Devices
Hands-on testing will give you clear insights into what’s working and what isn’t. You can do some of this yourself by utilizing your own computer, smartphone, tablet, and other devices. However, try to use as many devices as possible. Remember that not all devices are the same, even within their categories or from the same manufacturer. Screen sizes change every year, as does screen resolution.
Tap your staff to see how the site appears on their devices. Does it look as good on an iPhone as it does on a Samsung tablet or a Lenovo laptop? Does any of your media that works on one device not work on another? Is text too small to read comfortably, or is it difficult for you to scroll with your finger or tap on links? Try to think about it from the perspective of a potential customer that’s never been to your site before.
2. Test with Digital Tools
It’s smart to start your testing with Google’s own mobile-friendly test. This will give you a breakdown of whether or not your site meets the algorithmic criteria to avoid a penalty. However, don’t forget that Google crawls your site on a page by page basis. If your homepage is mobile friendly, but your service pages aren’t, those pages will be down-ranked in all applicable SERPS.
If you need help seeing what your site looks like on different devices, especially if you’re testing a responsive design, you can use an emulator like Screenfly or Responsinator. This can let you view what your site should look like on different devices based on screen size or manufacturer, and some will even display what the screen looks like if the device rotates between horizontal and vertical display modes. However, emulators can be very limited, and they can’t let you engage the entire user experience.
3. Test Your Site Speed
Fast loading times are key in the user experience. Google’s standard as a part of their mobile-friendly ranking signal is three seconds or less, and its internal standard is a second or less. That’s because the longer your site takes to load, the more likely a user is to abandon your page; according to Google, half of all visitors to a site will abandon a page while waiting for it to load. Google offers two separate tests for speed and performance, and provides insights into how to optimize your page for quicker loading. Other third-party options are also available.
Smartphones and other mobile devices have made it easier for customers to discover brands, search for information about companies and their offerings, and much more, all while on the go. Having a mobile-friendly website ensures your pages won’t be down-ranked for failing to align with search engine requirements. More importantly, you’ll provide the best possible experience to customers visiting your site.
Use the tips we’ve outlined above to test how your site actually works across mobile devices and use the results to guide changes to improve load times, visibility, and ease of use. Depending on your results, the testing will also help you determine whether or not you simply need to tweak a few settings, or if you need to revamp the entire site from scratch.