Photograph of Viggo shot by Sarah D Fischer @SarahReality

I don’t want no dog nipping at my heels.

Did you know that mobile overtook “fixed Internet access” last year?

“So what?” Really, you’re saying, “So what?”

Well, unless “…you’re Chuck McGill or you solely serve neo-Luddite technophobes who curmudgeonly resist the coming Singularity, you need to make your [blog and] website mobile-friendly.”

That’s your digital universe shaking. Feel that dog nipping at your heels? Pause. Breathe deep. Ouch! I know, right? Damn that nonstop change. But think for a second about how you access the Internet. You want that on-the-go, always-on, mobile access from your smartphone, don’t you?

We all do.

In fact, a huge percentage of your audience is reading your site from mobile devices and that number is going nowhere but up. That’s a trend you want to do some planning around. The time is now to develop a mobile-friendly strategy. Translation: if your site isn’t mobile-friendly, it will suffer in the search rankings on mobile devices.”

Consider the landscape:

  • Over 60 percent Google searches come from mobile devices 
  • Mobile searches are 30 percent of total organic traffic
  • The number of smartphones globally is expected to surpass 2 billion in 2016

According to Cisco, by 2019 you’ll be facing:

  • 5.2 billion global mobile users, up from 4.3 billion in 2014
  • 11.5 billion mobile-ready devices and connections, more than 4 billion more than there were in 2014
  • A 2.4- mobile connection speed increase–from 1.7 Mbps in 2014 to 4.0 Mbps by 2019

This move toward mobile is why Google is rolling out a new “ranking adjustment” that is slanted in favor of mobile-friendly sites. As Google’s blog explains

Starting April 21, we will be expanding our use of mobile-friendliness as a ranking signal. This change will affect mobile searches in all languages worldwide and will have a significant impact in our search results. Consequently, users will find it easier to get relevant, high quality search results that are optimized for their devices.

Back in November, Google announced that they would label sites as mobile-friendly in search results, and now they’re rejiggering their search algorithm, Google will be making mobile-friendliness one of the factors in search engine ranking.

So, the rub is not that non-mobile sites will be penalized so much as sites that are mobile-friendly will get a “search result” boost.

Google will use a plethora of criteria to evaluate whether or not a page meets their standard of “mobile-friendly.” As two employees explained last week in a Google+ hangout:

As we mentioned in this particular change, you either have a mobile-friendly page or not. It is based on the criteria we mentioned earlier, which are small font sizes, your tap targets/links to your buttons are too close together, readable content and your viewpoint. So if you have all of those and your site is mobile-friendly then you benefit from the ranking change.

But as we mentioned earlier, there are over 200 different factors that determine ranking so we can’t just give you a yes or no answer with this. It depends on all the other attributes of your site, whether it is providing a great user experience or not. That is the same with desktop search, not isolated with mobile search.

If you want to see if your site is mobile-friendly (and if your site will benefit) Google has a tool that will tell you exactly that, as well as other tools that will help you through the process of adapting your site. The Google+ hangout also revealed that the rollout could take a few days or even up to a week to take full effect. But that shouldn’t be an excuse for site owners to dawdle—the mobile boom is here. 

The left is Responsive Design and the right is a mock of non-RD. So, which one seems easy on your eyes?

So what’s Google’s recommendation for your site? Responsive design (RD). In non-programmer terms, this means that–no matter what platform your site is accessed from–your site will use the same URL and the same HTML code, but the site will display and render differently depending on the device the reader is using. That’s a great thing for your readers.

…[O]ne Google engineer said it would have more of an effect on rankings than Panda or Penguin did — and those were two of the most significant algorithm updates Google has ever made.

For those with information-rich sites, RD can’t be beat. RD doesn’t rely on detecting the device; RD is all about bringing users who consume your content an optimized and efficient way of doing that, while preparing your site for the web of the future. There’s no operating system or browser that could impact how your content comes across. Most importantly, RD maintains your brand identity across devices. You never know what kind of devices are coming in the future. But with responsive design, you have a system that will respond in a dynamic way.

Your imperative is to start thinking strategically about your online properties (blogs, websites, etc.). What is your plan for capitalizing on the mobile-friendly movement? Do some research. Find an expert. Figure out the cost of migrating from non-RD to RD. Get that into your budget. As Peter Drucker counsels: “The greatest danger in times of turbulence is not the turbulence–it is to act with yesterday’s logic.”

The Internet and technology are ever-evolving. Living in the past is foolish. Take charge and begin to hash out your plan for embracing a mobile-friendly world.

Why not “change before you have to?”

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