Just in case you have missed it in the news, earlier this week Google made changes to its search rankings to favour fully responsive sites. What the hell does that mean..? Let me explain.
Fully responsive means that the site is easily navigable regardless of the device or browser you choose to view it through. It does not mean that the pages shrink to a smaller size when viewed on a phone or tablet – and don’t let anyone tell you that is responsive – it is not!
Responsive means the entire layout changes and the navigation may take on a different look and feel on a phone or tablet as it does to a laptop or desktop. Pictures may be removed or heavily condensed and users can move around the page or forms using touch screen buttons.
But why have they made this change…?
In many respects Google is keeping up with a change in trends on this occasion. Whatever you may think or read elsewhere Google does want to offer you the best of the web and, in understanding that the range of devices and browsers we use these days differs greatly from just 3 years ago, they only want to offer up sites which will provide you with a quality experience – regardless of how you will view them.
What does it mean for you?
If your site is not fully responsive then you will now gradually start to drop down the search rankings. I have seen several of our local web developers put out marketing messages recently that suggest the four horsemen of the apocalypse are riding towards your business because of this change but, whilst it is important, you are not just about to be wiped off the search map…
This latest update to the Google algorithm is just one of the measures it uses to rank sites in its search process and as I have said in other blog posts, it does not mean that this will be all they use to grade your site. Everything else that has gone before still counts – yes even keywords/terms – albeit to an ever decreasing value.
If your site is fully responsive you are not necessarily off the hook, however. The level of responsiveness is being monitored and so if you have buttons which are too close together or multi-tiered navigations, you may still get marked down. If you don’t already, employ Google Webmaster Tools on your site and they will kindly tell you how to make your site better to avoid being penalised.
Responsive or mobile version… or App?
If this latest change lights a fire under you to develop a new site then you may be asking yourself which way to go.
Do you replace your site with a responsive version?
Do you simply create a web version which, like Facebook and BBC websites, diverts mobile users to a site with reduced content?
Or do you go down the app route?
At this stage, my advice would be fully responsive every time. Mobile versions are fine but for smaller companies you effectively end up managing 2 sites which is troublesome. Apps are very ‘now’ but unless your product or service cries out for an app and you are likely to have thousands of people demanding one, I would find another home for £3,000-£5,000.
As ever, we provide straight forward ‘BS’ free advice and free range thinking so if you want an honest and frank evaluation of your website, please contact a member of the team.
Posted on behalf of Ben Cooper