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Search Engine Optimization Whitepaper

Search Engine Optimization Whitepaper

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Search Engine Optimization: The Rise of the Mobile-Friendly Website
By: Malcom Chakery

At one time, a responsive and user-friendly website was one that was simple to use, easy-to-navigate, well-designed, and most importantly, one that maximized white space. For years, this was the recipe for success and one that many website designers focused on. It was a time when websites were viewed more as a business accessory as opposed to the profit-driving business development tool they are now.

Today’s websites are now seen as the number one lead generator for businesses and a critical tool for growing market share and revenue. In fact, inbound/online marketing has quickly usurped conventional marketing strategies like magazine advertisements, TV and print. Online marketing is easier to manage, simpler to track, provides results in real-time and is much less expensive. It allows business professionals to define the costs of customer acquisition at a microscopic level and it’s far more accurate than those aforementioned strategies of the past.

A company’s website is the ultimate sales funnel, one that continually feeds the company with lead generation. However, for that to happen, it must be optimized for all platforms. That means having a website that looks as good on a laptop, desktop and tablet as it does on a smartphone or other mobile device.

However, all those aforementioned criteria concerning website design are merely considered prerequisites now. In order to stay on top, today’s websites need to do more than just optimize whitespace and make their platform easier to navigate. Companies need to do more than merely adopt a pay-per-click campaign and hope traffic is automatically driven to their website. To succeed in today’s marketplace, webmasters must adopt proactive search engine optimization (SEO) strategies that combine engaging video and thought-provoking content within a mobile-friendly platform.

It’s that last portion that has a number of webmasters and companies concerned. After all, a number of well-established websites were designed long before mobile devices and smartphones took hold. Those designs never had mobile phones in mind. So, how does a website become mobile-friendly and why has this now become the litmus test on a website’s relevance?

Google is the Dominant Search Engine

Google is the preeminent online search engine and the dominant market leader. While Google is known for changing its algorithm daily, it’s well-understood that some algorithm changes are more impactful than others. This most recent algorithm change measuring a website’s mobile-friendliness follows a long line of changes that have directly impacted websites and their rankings in online searches. Regardless of whether it’s “Panda”, “Hummingbird”, “Penguin” or “Pigeon”, webmasters must pay close attention to what these Google algorithm changes entail.

Each of these algorithms have a direct impact on a website’s PageRank either by catapulting that website to the top of the page in search results, or knocking it down off the first page for specific keywords. The difference in traffic is substantial; upwards of 80 percent of users click on the first five results in online searches. If a company isn’t included in those first five results, then it has a hard time driving traffic to its website.

These Google algorithm changes are substantial for companies and can be measured by lost revenue and lost market share. Suffice it to say, every website relies upon Google for a majority of their viewership and all designers must pay close attention to any potential Google algorithm change.

Google’s “Mobilegeddon” Algorithm Change

Forward-thinking webmasters who have adopted solid SEO strategies have managed to stay one-step ahead of the curve. They’ve attained a higher PageRank, increased their viewership, and most importantly, they’ve benefitted from friendlier SERPs (search engine results pages) by adopting proactive online reputation and brand management strategies. Yet, despite their best efforts, even the best websites have succumbed at some point to a given Google algorithm change. These changes force webmasters to adjust and improve their website or suffer a decline in viewership.

Now the bar has to be raised again with yet another Google algorithm adjustment. Referred to as “Mobilegeddon” by many webmasters, this most recent algorithm update will redefine what it means for a website to be mobile-friendly.

Websites that pass the mobile-friendly test will achieve a higher position in online searches. Those websites that don’t pass the test will see a sudden decline in viewership and traffic. So, what does this algorithm change include and what must websites do to adjust to this new reality?

A Natural Algorithm Change

Business professionals and everyday consumers are relying more and more on their mobile devices and smartphones. Today’s consumer is always connected and all are using their mobile devices for online searches. Smartphones are simple tools that provide more than just a means of calling friends and family members. They are minicomputers and a vital tool in our everyday lives. It’s natural for Google to make this change and in many ways it’s long overdue.

This recent algorithm change is substantial and will position mobile-friendly websites higher on Google search results. Websites that aren’t mobile-optimized will see a decrease in viewership and a decline in their SERPs.

Ultimately, it’s not just about having a website that appears on a mobile device. Instead, it’s about having the right font, clearly visible content, proper spacing between links, and images that are easily seen without having to pinch or zoom on a mobile device’s display screen. After all, a website’s relevance is measured by user-engagement. In terms of mobile devices, user-engagement is defined by ease-of-use. In the end, it’s a question of how easy it is for mobile device users to view a given website on their smartphone.

So, what are some of the more important changes recently initiated by Google? More importantly, what should webmasters do in order to become a more dominant player in mobile searches? The first step involves understanding whether a website passes the minimum requirements to be considered mobile-friendly as defined by Google.

Test Before Making any Changes

The first step is to input a given website’s URL into Google’s “Mobile-Friendly Test” and or its “Mobile Page Speed Insights” section of its Google Developer Page. The test will instantaneously give insight into whether a website is mobile-friendly or not. If that website isn’t mobile friendly, then a list will be provided defining what needs to change. Some of the more common reasons are outlined below.
• Text too small to read
• Content wider than screen
• Links too close together
• Mobile viewpoint not set

Assuming that a website doesn’t past the litmus test, what should it do moving forward? To answer this question, here are some issues to focus on in order to make a website more responsive on mobile devices.

1. Eliminate Pinching and Zooming:

A mobile-friendly website is one where the user only has to scroll up or down on their mobile device in order to read the content. This means pinching, zooming or adjusting the screen horizontally is no longer acceptable. In order for a website to be mobile-friendly, users should only have to adjust the screen vertically using their thumbs. Single-hand manipulation for end-users needs to be the cornerstone of any mobile-friendly website.

2. Proper Fonts and Right-Sized Images:

Fonts and images on a laptop and or desktop don’t transfer well onto mobile devices without considerable changes by the end-user. Fonts that are too small and ineligible force users to pinch or zoom in order to interpret the information. In fact, small and illegible fonts force users into a never-ending process of pinching and zooming just to read a single sentence.

Additional issues for mobile users arise when they are forced to download more content due to the size of images, the size of fonts and the spacing between both. Longer downloads drain a mobile device’s battery and irate users. This invariably means a user will abandon the site if interpreting the information is too time consuming and laborious.

3. Eliminate Useless Software:

It’s important to eliminate and or upgrade software platforms that aren’t universally accepted on all mobile devices. Flash content, and other license-limiting media, is not easily transferrable on all mobile devices. This type of software platform interferes with content and information downloads, thereby frustrating the user and forcing them to leave.

4. Eliminating 404 Errors:

Mobile-friendly websites should never have 404 errors or issues with redirects. While these 404 errors may not appear on a laptop or desktop, they can be present on mobile devices. The focus must be on checking that all redirects are working properly and that no 404 errors are present.

It’s not unheard of for desktop and laptop users to see a clearly visible page only to have that page show up as a 404 error on a mobile device. Correcting this issue involves redirecting each individual laptop URL to a different mobile URL, which can be a time-consuming endeavor.

5. Improving Mobile Page Speed:

It’s possible for a website to pass the mobile-friendly test and still have individual pages that take too long to load on mobile devices. Slow loading pages frustrate users regardless of whether they are using a laptop, desktop, tablet or smartphone. It’s imperative that individual pages be tested with the aforementioned “Mobile Page Speed Insights” tool provided by Google’s Developer page.

6. Granting Access to Robots.txt Files:

Image files, CSS coding and blocked JavaScript needs to be seen by Google bots when they crawl your mobile pages. Make sure you grant Google access to these files through your website’s robots.txt file.

7. Avoiding Useless Links and Faulty Redirects:

Links that direct mobile users to optimized desktop pages need to be redirected to a mobile-optimized URL. It’s imperative that each mobile URL is checked thoroughly in order to ensure that all mobile pages adopt the aforementioned criteria of eligible fonts, clear images and sufficient spacing between links.

8. Using a Small HTML Banner for App Downloads:

A reduced HTML banner at the top of the website is often needed in order to make sure that App download interstitials are working properly. It’s common for a website to block a user’s view of a given page when the user is prompted to upload the website’s natural App. Using a small HTML banner avoids this issue entirely.

9. Proper Spacing Between Links:

Make sure all links, icons and toolbar buttons are properly spaced and easily accessible without having to pinch, squeeze or modify the mobile phone’s touch screen. Again, ease-of-use must be emphasized and users should not have to modify the screen in order to access buttons and links.

10. Optimize Mobile Navigation:

A website’s navigation bar appears differently on a laptop than it does on a mobile device. It should be a natural progression from one link to the next and from one page to the next. A convoluted screen makes navigation difficult and will easily be viewed as less than desirable by users.

Working With the Right Solutions Provider

Ultimately, many websites are older than Google itself. Some websites were designed by programmers long before any of these recent algorithm changes took hold. Unfortunately, even if a website has a longstanding history of performance, it doesn’t mean that website is immune to this most recent mobile-friendly Google algorithm change. In the end, all websites, regardless of age or relevance, will be measured by this same yardstick. This is where Chakery.com comes in.

Chakery.com is a full-service, turnkey solutions provider with over 12 years’ experience helping companies reach a global audience. Its focus is simple: Create an engaging and affordable website design and compliment it with the most proactive online marketing strategy possible.

Unlike most design firms, Chakery doesn’t use a cookie-cutter approach. It doesn’t rely upon the same well-established strategy for all websites. What works for one company can’t possibly translate entirely to another. That’s why the focus is on working directly with the customer by analyzing their business model, their chosen target audience, and most importantly, by designing a website that meets the needs of the company’s client base.

Consumer markets and business markets are different. That’s why a website’s design and its adoption of social media strategies must be focused with the end-user in mind. A consumer wants to see one thing, while a business professional, and or an academic, wants to see another. They are not all served by the same social media platform and therefore can’t be served by the same tired website design. Consumers prefer family-friendly social media sites like Facebook and Pinterest, while business professionals and academics rely upon professional social media sites like LinkedIn.

Chakery.com is always in tune with the latest Google changes, always aware of the impact these changes have on websites and always searching for an affordable solution. Whether it’s tackling “Mobilegeddon” or anything else Google throws at you, we’re here to help you find a way forward.

  • Date March 27, 2016
  • Tags Whitepaper