The importance of having a mobile friendly website is now commonly understood by most small business owners. You want existing and potential customers to find information about your products and services no matter what device they’re using. And we all know that the majority of people today are using smartphones to search the web.
This shift in thinking about mobile devices has actually been quite quick. A few years ago, having a mobile friendly website was a bonus feature. Large corporations with big marketing budgets had them. Many news agencies had them. But the benefit for small businesses took a bit longer to catch on.
A bit of personal history…
About five years ago, I began to design new small business websites with various mobile devices in mind. But older sites remained difficult to navigate on smartphones. And that made sense a few years ago. Not many people used mobile devices to search for local businesses. It was still a new concept.
The pressure to design all websites to be mobile friendly really took off when Google began to give search ranking priority to websites it considered “mobile friendly.” Google even set up a simple tool for website managers to test whether or not a site was mobile friendly: PageSpeed Insights.
One might think that this shift to mobile was simply a balancing act. The weight of design effort had previously been given to desktop browsers. Maybe it was time to think about smaller mobile screens. I’m not so sure that’s true.
I remember when building browser friendly websites was about desktop monitor sizes. The standard changed as large screens became more affordable. We also had to be aware of the differences between browsers. A website might look great in Firefox, but terrible in Internet Explorer.
I believe the shift toward mobile friendly web design is more than a balancing act. We’re not simply paying attention to an audience that’s been neglected. On the contrary, that audience is quickly becoming the majority. As a result, web design for mobile devices is critical for online business survival.
The stats I read continue to show a dramatic increase in mobile devices accessing the web. People are using their mobile devices more than desktop computers to access information on the web.
While I wonder what this increase in mobility means for our society, the facts are hard to ignore. My work involves helping website owners promote their products and services online. If their audience is using mobile devices to find information or services in my clients’ industry (which they are), I need to help them find it.
This leads me to one of many recent changes from Google affecting local business websites.
Accelerated Mobile Pages (AMP) – How Fast is your Mobile Website?
Over the past year, Google has stepped up their preference for mobile friendly sites. Many websites are now optimized for mobile devices. But that growth has made it challenging to find information quickly. Now Google wants mobile websites to be faster than ever.
Studies show that most people will leave a site if they cannot find information in less than three seconds. To help fix this problem, about a year ago Google started Accelerated Mobile Pages (AMP) to help web developers speed up mobile websites.
Apparently, it’s working. The recent results for AMPed websites looks encouraging.
How important is Google AMP for local business WordPress websites?
WordPress now offers support for AMP, but the focus seems to be on accelerating blog posts. The priority of providing AMPed blog posts (rather than WordPress Pages, eCommerce, forms, etc) may indicate that AMP is more important for business websites that publish new content on a regular basis. For now, anyway.
There is evidence that the benefits of Google AMP for local business WordPress websites might very soon be a reality. Although Google has hinted that AMP pages for local business sites may not get ranking priority, that might change.
In September, Google started adding an AMP lightning bolt icon to search results. Are they testing to see if people will click on search results that might load faster? Maybe. And given the fact that large websites are reporting great success as a result of implementing AMP, I suspect it won’t be long until Google AMP for local business sites will be a necessity for local SEO.
But it’s not quite there yet.
It seems as though AMP was designed for major web publishers. That means large sites that crank out massive amounts of content every week. Personally, I think Google is targeting these major players because they’re competing with Facebook Instant Articles and Apple News for advertising dollars. And I think Google’s open source, cross-platform strategy for AMP will be more successful.
If AMP continues to work for the major players, Google might provide optimization incentives for small sites too.
I am in the process of testing AMP on a few websites. I hope to report some significant results soon.
So if you have a mobile friendly website for your local business, you’re doing well. But as Google’s AMP project indicates, the rules keep changing. As is always the case for small business owners, you need to stay alert and willing to change.
But don’t change things just because technology says so. Implement these changes only when they help serve your customers better.
Here’s an infographic from Google showing AMP’s effectiveness: