Is Your Local Business Website Ready For Google’s April 21 ‘Mobile-friendly’ Change?

Google rocked the social media world in late February with their announcement that starting April 21, they would be:

 

“expanding our use of mobile-friendliness as a ranking signal.”

Google further went on to say that websites that do not pass their mobile-friendly test should expect to see their ranking drop in the search engine.

This announcement is particularly significant for small, local business owners competing locally with the “Big Box” stores who have the resources to keep up with the rapid technology and social media changes.

Mobile and location based digital marketing is huge and expected to keep on growing. An Emarketer article states mobile ad spending targeting smartphones and tablets will increase from just over $28 billion (50%) in 2015 to over $68 billion (72.2%) in 2019.

That is a staggering increase. Large companies and corporations operating Big Box stores at the local level are already pouring billions of dollars into targeting mobile device strategies.

For local mobile business searches it’s critical to appear in the top search results – mobile device users aren’t going to scroll through an endless series of search result pages like they would on desktop.

Every local business should be concerned with this significant change, but several niche industries most often searched for by mobile consumers should pay particular attention.

Travel and Tourism Industry – Hotels, Bed & Breakfasts, Vineyards and Wineries, Tourist Boards and Visitor Centers

Food and Drink Industry – Restaurants, Fast Food, Grocery and Food Retailers, Dining Guides

Shopping – Apparel, Gifts and Specialty Stores, Outdoor Markets, Antiques and Collectibles

News and Media – TV Networks and Stations, Newspapers, Radio, Online Media,

Let’s look at real data to see how this announcement might impact a local business owner. I took a random sampling of locally owned businesses, in my area, State College, Pennsylvania. Our community population including borough and townships is about 105,000 people. We are also home to a highly mobile major university student population.

Local business owners compete with major chains like Macy’s, Target, Walmart, Lowes, Holiday Inn, Comfort Inn, Marriot, Olive Garden, Applebee’s, Subway, and the list goes on.

For purposes of gathering data, the following criteria were used:

  • Locally owned and operated businesses.
  • Big Box results removed from search results.
  • Random Google search for niche markets, like “Food and Drink in State College PA.”
  • Location results within 25 miles of State College.

THE RESULTS

Of the sampling taken, an overwhelming 58% of the local businesses did not pass Google’s Mobile-Friendly test.

mobile-friendly-small-business

Reasons listed by Google for a FAIL*:

  • Text too small to read
  • Links too close together
  • Content wider than screen
  • low loading mobile pages
  • Mobile viewports not being set correctly
  • Incompatible plug-ins

Results were further tabulated by four niche areas that, in my experience, would be the most searched for by consumers using a mobile device.

Below are the PASS/FAIL results by industry:

mobile-friendly-google

WHAT CAN YOU DO?

CHECK YOUR SITE

Below are two ways to check your sites friendliness on mobile devices:

1) Google your business website on a mobile device. Check under the site name. A grey “mobile friendly” designator should appear if your site meets Google’s requirements.
2) Visit: https://www.google.com/webmasters/tools/mobile-friendly/ Enter your site URL, click Analyze. A site that does NOT pass Google’s mobile-friendly text will include the reasons why like: Text too small to read, Links too close together, Content wider than screen, Slow loading mobile pages.

Your website should appear in the results with your business name and a “mobile-friendly” banner in grey:

google-mobile-friendly-banner

CONTACT YOUR WEBMASTER

If your business did not pass the Google test, contact your webmaster. A webmaster has the knowledge and expertise to incorporate changes needed to mitigate many of these problems. It may mean investing in a new design or only just a few tweaks to your current site.

SUMMARY

Improve your chances of ranking in Google’s results by identifying what website changes need to be made to improve your mobile-friendly ranking, develop an action plan with your webmaster to mitigate the changes Google suggests. A savvy web designer should be able to help you implement the fixes to ensure your site does not suffer when a customer is searching for you.

Is your website prepared? What recommendations would you have for the small, locally owned business owner to improve their search “friendliness?”

*Visit Google’s Mobile Guide site to learn more about what you can do to improve your site’s mobile friendly experience.