How will Google's mobile changes affect your website?
The internet is awash with information about Google's recent round of search ranking changes, particularly the ones affecting users searching via mobile devices. Given the company's near-monopoly on web search it has understandably got a lot of website owners and managers concerned.
Google said way back in 2010 that site speed is a search ranking factor. They want to send their users to sites that load faster, for a better user experience. If there are two similar sites they'll pick the faster one. In recent years they've pushed web developers to 'make the web faster'. This is great for Google and good for users too. Faster sites tend to be smaller, optimised, use less bandwidth and take advantage of the latest web technologies and approaches to development.
As mobile web traffic has exploded, Google has encouraged best practice for building mobile-friendly websites. Again, this benefits users (click a search results link and go to the correct page, rather than being redirect off to a weird intermediary page) as well as Google (happy customers) and websites (lower bounce rates).
How is this going affect your website's traffic? The most important thing to know is that these changes will only affect mobile web searches. If your site doesn't have a lot of mobile traffic, it won't be an issue now (although as mobile/tablet usage increases it's something to consider for the future). If your site has 10% mobile traffic and upwards, you could see a noticeable shift in traffic from mobiles so a responsive rewrite or a mobile-only site would be a good idea.
Test your website:
You can quickly improve your site for mobile users today (remember this useful mnemonic FUBDIT):
Fast - Make sure it's as fast as you can make it follow the sensible suggestions from tools like PageSpeed, YSlow, etc.
Usable - Links, or 'targets', should be large, obvious and easy to click.
Basic - Get the basics right. Fancy animations and CSS3 transitions don't help if your website's visitors can't find your phone number or contact information.
Direct - Let your website visitors get directly to the content they want, without having to click around the site too much. More clicks = more likely to leave = more bandwidth and more waiting for things to load.
Inputs - Web browsers on mobile devices support most of the HTML5 inputs. Make sure you're using the email, telephone and other inputs so mobile users can easily enter their information in your forms.
Timing - Don't make your website visitors wait, load the important information first and let the fancy animations load later.