Google Rankings and Mobile Devices

There is a lot of buzz at the moment about changes Google has made to SEO and how websites rank on mobile devices.

As usual with SEO, some of the claims being made are misleading.

What Google is doing is effectively maintaining two sets of rankings for your website - one for mobile devices and one for desktops. If a person searches for your website on their computer they should see it appear in the ranking where it is now. If they search on their phone they will find that websites that are "mobile friendly" will be ranked higher than those that are not.

Here is the announcement from Google -

If your website is old (in internet terms that means only 2 or 3 years) then it is unlikely to be "mobile friendly". There are two ways website developers handle mobile devices - dedicated mobile versions of websites, or what we call "responsive design". Responsive design queries the device to find out how wide it is and adjusts the content to fit. This method was not very well supported in older browsers (if at all) so has only recently become common website development practice. Responsive design is CSS based and in older browsers the support for CSS was patchy and could result in awful page rendering errors. Some web developers also waited to start using it so they did not have to have dedicated stylesheet versions for different browsers. Creating multiple stylesheets tended to drive the price up for no clearly identifyable reason to customers in a market where smartphones and tablets were not as common as they are now. These days things are a lot better (unless you still use Windows XP) but that is why older sites were commonly not made using responsive design techniques.

If your website is not mobile friendly then do not panic yet. Every time you renew your website hosting and maintenance with me I include 4 hours of time that you can put towards updates to your site. I recommend that when you get your renewal invoice we should talk about the best way to switch your site to a responsive design and I will credit those hours to the process.

I should point out that responsive design is limited in the style of website that works with it. That is why most websites being made now (especially at the low end of the market) tend to look the same. Not every website will translate into the style that responsive design naturally supports. In these cases, a redesign may be required.

If you would like to know how exposed you are to this SEO change I can run a report to tell you the percentage of mobile devices currently accessing your website. That information can help you make an informed decision about how much you are impacted.

I will be looking closer into these changes to see what infrastructure modifications I need to make to properly support them.

As usual, if you have any questions please give me a call or email. I am always here to help.

/email_attachments/gerard_mcdermott.jpgBy Gerard McDermott

Gerard runs GMAC Internet Solutions and has been developing websites since the mid-1990's. He has even been acknowledged in one of the first books ever written about Javascript programming.

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