For Those Camp's Who Didn't Heed My Warnings About Making Your Website Mobile-Friendly, G-(Google) Day is April 21Many camp directors are freaking out about Google's announcement that non-mobile-friendly websites are about to get hammered in the search results starting April 21.
This should come as no surprise. I've been preaching for years about the importance of building a mobile-friendly site. The reason why is because Google's #1 goal has always been to provide the most relevant search results and best user experience possible.
Well guess what?
If your website forces users to pinch their screens or scroll horizontally just to use your site, or widen it by hand just to tap a link, that means your website is not optimized for mobile...and THAT means you are making it difficult on Google to provide relevant search results and good experience for users. So consider yourself warned (again). If you don't make the appropriate adjustments to your website by April 21 you could get punished in Google's search results, end of story.
Why is this such a big deal and how do we know it?Because Google has actually warned us about it and has given a firm 6-week notice to come into compliance. Google publicly said two days ago this update to its algorithm, which will reward mobile-friendly websites, will significantly impact its search results. Compare this to Google's hummingbird update, which they didn't even mention until a month or so after the fact; if Google is going out of its way to give advance warning now, you better take notice.
Don't say I didn't warn you. I've been telling you this day's been coming for years.
- In 2009 I mentioned how most sites look like crappy on cell phones and what to do about it.
- In 2010 I blogged about how to make your site viewable on a cell phone.
- In 2011 we discussed the fact how more moms than ever are using cell phones to find summer camps and the associated importance of mobile search.
- In 2012 we shared the 9 tips for making a solid mobile website
- Last year we included optimizing your site for mobile in our list of the 10 Commandments of Summer Camp Marketing.
- Over a year ago I wrote a post about why you need a mobile site and how to optimize your camp's website for mobile
- Back in November I urged you to take Google's mobile friendly website test to see if your site passed muster.
The list goes on. But even if you ignored my warnings, now that Google has spoken it's imperative you comply. Google prefers websites that work seamlessly across all platforms, and now they're officially doing something about it.
The Difference Between the Two Types of Mobile Friendly WebsitesFor the purposes of this article, there are two ways to make your desktop mobile friendly. You can make a "mobile website" or a "responsive website."
If you decide to go this route, then you will end up with two websites, one that is optimized for desktop and one that's optimized for mobile. Since you will have two websites you will also have two domain names. For example, your desktop site's domain may be www.summercampexample.com, and your mobile website's domain will be www.m.summercampexample.com (the "m" stands for mobile.) When users log on to your desktop site, they will be redirected to your mobile website from a little script you add into your desktop's HTML code.
Going this route may be OK in Google's eyes, but probably not as good as good building a responsive website instead.
Google recommends responsive websites. A responsive site is adopts to any device of any size, no matter if it's a desktop, iphone, ipad, android tablet, anything. Mobile websites don't typically do that -- they generally only display correctly on phones. Bottom line, if you are short on time, money and other resources you may only have the resources to build a mobile website now and deal with a responsive site later as building responsive sites may entail an entire website redesign or overhall.
Bottom line, you are better off with a mobile-specific site than desktop-only site, and probably better off with a responsive site than either of the other two. Here's a good article on the difference between a mobile website and a responsive one. Bear in mind this article came out 6 months ago, long before Google's announcement last week.
If We Don't Have a Mobile Optimized Site What Should We Do Now?Don't panic. You still have 6 weeks. That should be enough time to make any needed improvements to your website. But don't just sit around and do nothing. The writing's on the wall. If you are ranking highly in Google's search results now but your site isn't mobile-friendly by April 21, the punishment could be severe and you may lose the search result ranking you've worked so hard to achieve.
Obviously late winter and spring is not the ideal time for camps to undertake unplanned (and unbudgeted) projects like redoing websites. That's a fall project for us. But it's pointless to sit around worrying. You have to act fast, but not so fast you make a mistake. (In most areas in life I take the postilion that if you're unsure of what to do, do nothing and the right decision will come to you soon enough. Not this time though...)
Here's what I suggest if you don't have the time or resources to retrofit your website: Increase your Google adwords budget (or open an account if you don't have one) and do a LOT more online advertising. Even if your organic search result rankings get squashed, at least this approach allows you to buy yourself some time and bridge the gap between now and when you're able to address your mobile optimized website delimena while still showing up Google's search results anyway.
If you need ideas for how to prepare let me know in the comments. Let me know if you need help. There's more solutions out there than you think or I've addressed here. Just take care of it before G-Day. Good luck!