No one wants to squint at text or have to pinch and zoom on an image just to engage with your content. So if your business's website is not mobile-friendly, then it's simply not user-friendly.
Search engines know that people are increasingly using their phones to search, and that's why Google started indexing "mobile-first" last July, meaning they crawl the mobile version of your site rather than the desktop version.
If your site isn't mobile friendly, you'll lose organic rankings and therefore traffic and leads. Here's how to make sure you're not getting overlooked by Google's algorithm.
1. Use responsive design.
Your website should seamlessly display and operate on mobile devices. To do that, you'll want to ensure it's coded to be responsive-- that means it automatically morphs to fit the screen size, be it a smartphone or tablet.
Separate mobile sites are not recommended. They used to be a go-to tactic, but they make search engine optimization (SEO) more difficult to execute and tend to offer varied experiences between desktop and mobile. Responsive design, on the other hand, is the preferred method of web developers, users and search engines alike.
Responsive design preserves the general look and feel of your website but reorganizes, resizes and re-optimizes it for a smaller, touch-sensitive, (primarily) vertically-oriented mobile screens. Most CMS platforms have responsive templates, so if you're building or re-launching a site, make sure to grab one of those.
2. Remove pop-ups and unplayable Flash videos.
These are two of the biggest offenders in a negative mobile user experience (UX). Pop-ups are annoying in general, but they become especially pesky on mobile, where it's more difficult to see around them and click that tiny "x" in the corner to close.
Flash video, which was originally built around desktop experiences and mouse roll-overs, usually just doesn't work on mobile. The last thing you want mobile users to see is a big blacked-out video box with no available content-- you can bet they won't want to stick around.
3. Run the "thumb test" to check UX.
The "thumb test" is just what it sounds like. We navigate our mobile smartphone experiences with our thumbs, one-handed. If it can't be reached with a thumb click, users are less likely to click it.
So pull up your business's website on your mobile device and note where your fingers can reach without repositioning the phone or scrolling -- is there a CTA in reach? Is the info you see compelling, or did you save the good stuff for lower down the page?
4. Make sure page speed is up to snuff.
Page speed is king. It's one of those search results ranking factors that Google values highly because according to their own data, 53 percent of people abandon a mobile page if it takes longer than three seconds to load.
Therefore, if a page takes too long to load, it's going to drop down on the search engine results page (SERP). When you are loading your website to perform the "thumb test" from above, did you notice a lag in the loading of the site's content? If you did, then your users definitely will.
There's technical ways to go about measuring page speed, but simply pulling it up on your own mobile device is an easy litmus test. If there's a delay, get your web developers or SEO team involved.
Remember, mobile users typically won't have as strong of an Internet connection. So you want to make sure that high resolution images and other page elements (especially that funky design you paid thousands for) serve up quickly so your user doesn't back out frustrated -- and click on your competitor's site instead.
5. Get ready for local customers.
Your contact and locations page(s) should make it easy as pie for users to find you, because 94 percent of smartphone users pick up their phone to make local searches. These should be optimized with Google My Business listings that include easy click-to-call buttons. You should also build in buttons for directions, so a user can easily tap to set their GPS and head your way.
Consider this, too: Google prioritizes relevant local options when it serves up search results. If you're gunning for local customers, you want to play by Google's rules. Showing up at the top of locally oriented searches can be a lightning-quick route to that next sale.
6. Run a test on Google Mobile Friendly Checker.
Google may be known for playing its search algorithm cards close to the vest, but it actually aims to be as transparent and helpful as possible. Consider its Mobile Friendly Test tool. Simply paste in your website URL to let Google scan it. You'll either get the green light -- good for you, you're mobile friendly -- or you'll get a list of site elements to address.
These six steps give you a solid start on mobile friendliness and light the way towards a fully mobile-optimized website. But it doesn't end here -- the rise of mobile device usage continues, and that means an increasing importance of mobile SEO, voice search, position-zero search results and other mobile-specific search considerations. If mobile isn't on your priority list, it should be. Hang up that bicycle and hop in your speed racer.