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Responsive, mobile-friendly websites get search boost from May

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Google has said that it will increase the search engine ranking benefit of mobile-friendly websites from May, 2016. This will affect the results for anyone searching via a mobile device, and means there's never been a more important time to have a responsive web design. And when responsive, mobile-friendly websites get search boost from Google, you can reap the rewards.

The announcement was made via the official Google Webmasters blog, and explains that the update to boost results for websites which work well on mobile will roll out gradually, so it may take a little while for everyone to see the benefit to their own site. It also means that any drop-off in visitors and customers could happen over weeks and months - so it's important to monitor mobile traffic to your website.

If you're not sure whether your website is mobile-friendly, you can quickly check via the Google Mobile-Friendly Test Tool. It's why we recommend responsive website design for all our clients, as mobile traffic and importance is only increasing. Many companies see 50% or more customers now visit their website on their phone or tablet.

What is Responsive Website Design?

A responsive website doesn't just mean someone can see your business on their phone. It means the website will automatically give the best possible experience for whatever device is being used. On desktop, tablet or smartphone, the website will be easy to read and navigate, and won't need to be constantly resized and scrolled to get to everything.

It also means using the right technology to ensure even basic smartphones can display a website quickly without problems. And then adding features for those visitors on a computer and with higher internet speeds. There are more details on what is involved in responsive and mobile-friendly web design provided by Google. If you'd prefer a slightly more simple explanation, we can take you through the work we've done to create hundreds of responsive and mobile-friendly websites in a wide range of industries. For instance, responsive website designs for Zircon Flooring or Synecore, and responsive eCommerce for Pro-Box.

The alternative to responsive design is to create a seperate mobile website. This means essentially duplicating your entire website. And then showing that version to anyone visiting on their phone. Primarily used by very large businesses and websites, this approach comes with a significant cost. You pay for design, development, avoiding duplicate content issues across both websites, and maintaining both of them into the future. That's why we recommend a responsive design as the most effective, elegant and cost-effective way to ensure customers can access your products and services via their phone.

Why boost mobile-friendly websites now?

Google originally began to use mobile-friendliness as a ranking factor in April 2015. It did result in some results and traffic changes, but wasn't the 'mobilegeddon' that many people had predicted. Now Google is doing everything it can to encourage website and business owners to embrace the mobile internet.

A big reason for that push is that Google faces significant challenges on mobile phones from big rivals including Facebook, Apple and Amazon. All the big technology companies want us to spend all our time with their products. And each of them has a vested interest in the massive rise in mobile traffic. For Google, this means ensuring search, advertising, the Android platform and their other services are as good to use as possible, and as useful as possible.

There's no explicit mention of the new Google Accelerated Mobile Pages in the announcement. This is a new way to construct pages for mobile optimisation which is only really applicable to newspapers, journalists and other frequent content publishers at the moment. But we're already testing for when it is rolled out to more types of pages, including products and services.

And if you're in any doubt about the size of mobile internet. In 2015, smartphones overtook laptops as the primary device for UK internet users. Around 66% of UK adults own a smartphone. And on average we each spend almost two hours per day using them to check the internet, including banking and shopping. Now newer, faster technology such as 4G encourages people to spend even more time on their mobile.

So if you haven't got a responsive, mobile-friendly website, it's vital you do it now. Whatever your business, you're going to lose customers if you don't.