How Google’s New Search Preference for Mobile-Friendly Sites Will Affect Small Businesses

If a search result appears on page two and no one is around to click it, does it even exist?

Previously, maintaining a mobile-friendly website was seen as more of a competitive edge—a bonus. As they become more widespread, businesses that struggle or refuse to keep up with the times will be bumped back and cast down to the deepest, darkest search pages where the sun don’t shine.

Google's mobile-friendly test

Following through on an announcement made in February, Google has shifted its search results to favor mobile-friendly websites starting April 21. To be considered compatible with smartphones, websites must have qualities such as text large enough to read on a mobile screen and links that are not too close together, among others. To test if your website meets the criteria, Google features a quick test where any url can be assessed on their mobile-friendliness found here.

While mobile users tired of squinting, pinching to zoom, and being ridiculed for their fat fingers may rejoice, businesses with websites that don’t meet Google’s criteria will likely end up losing business because they won’t end up anywhere near the first page of results. The coveted first search result position receives 33 percent of the traffic, according to a study by Chitika. After the 5th spot, links receive less than 5 percent of traffic from that search.

The National Small Business Administration found in 2013 that roughly 20 percent of small businesses are lacking a mobile-friendly website, and 18 percent have no web presence at all. Falling further down the search result hierarchy affects both the business itself and the costumers looking for the business.

Image via Flickr user Side Wages

What’s a small business to do? Besides hiring a professional web developer, small businesses that host their sites using 3rd party services such as WordPress, GoDaddy, or Bluehost can simply contact their provider for assistance that usually comes with a minimal charge.

Google’s search result restructure will only affect mobile phones. Also, small business owners will be happy to know that directory services such as Yelp and Google’s own local search listings will remain at the top of the list. Businesses both big and small that were blindsided by a decrease in web traffic as of late should be addressing the recent change in Google search’s algorithms, especially if their website lacks the criteria to qualify as mobile-friendly.

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