Mobile devices and search: What your business needs to know

Within the last year, Google has reported that the number of searches on mobile devices has surpassed those performed on desktops. As the search giant adapts to evolving technology, its changes require companies that rely on the Web for lead generation, marketing and visibility to change with it or drop out of the coveted first page results.

“Search engines are trying to ensure that people searching on mobile devices are being directed to sites that perform optimally on mobile devices,” says Alan Suchan, Senior SEO Specialist at SyncShow. “If a business’s site is not deemed mobile friendly, it will not show up as high in search results as businesses that have a mobile friendly site.”

Smart Business spoke with Suchan about how mobile is affecting search rankings, and what companies need to do to ensure they’re found on the Internet.

What has the introduction and proliferation of mobile devices meant for companies that conduct business and/or market themselves with a website?

Google, specifically, has taken steps to make sure people are receiving relevant results based on what it calls ‘conversational queries.’ That includes people using the voice search feature on their phones and people performing location-based searches for businesses in their area. If a search is performed for ‘restaurants near me’ through Google on a smartphone, it produces a list of restaurants close by. This was an area of focus for Google a couple of years ago that showed that they were preparing for the increase of searches performed using phones.

What effect might this have if a company’s website is not mobile optimized?

Sites that are deemed to be mobile friendly will appear higher in search result pages than sites that are not mobile friendly. Website speed is also taken into consideration. Sites that perform slower than others can also be pushed below faster performing sites in search rankings. That leads to a newer initiative called Accelerated Mobile Pages, another very new development from Google meant to speed up people’s browsing experiences on mobile devices. The usability and overall speed of sites is, and will continue to be, a significant factor in how well a site performs within search engines.

What are some best practices for companies looking to cater to or at least accommodate mobile users with their Web presence?

There are many possible strategies. Chief among them is ensuring a company’s site is mobile responsive. That means one version of a company’s site scales all of its elements to fit the width of whatever device and whichever Web browser is being used to access it. It means all of a site’s page elements can be present regardless of the device used to access it.

Creating a separate, mobile version of a company site is another option, which can show up as m.domain.com. The downfall is that making updates to the site requires changes to be executed on both the desktop and mobile site. With a responsive site, the company would only need to update one site for changes to register with both desktop and mobile views.

Dynamic serving is a little more complicated and involves a setup where the website’s server responds with different code on the same Web page depending on the device of the user. It involves more maintenance and requires someone with technical capabilities for upkeep. These aren’t very popular. Most companies choose a responsive design.

What must companies with a Web presence understand about search?

Mobile is not going away. Search engines are placing an increased importance on how sites appear and perform on mobile devices. Businesses need to make sure their site is optimized for people using mobile devices. If not, they’re likely lose visits, leads, sales, etc. to their competitors that have made the jump to mobile.

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