7th July 2015 — By Dan Hawkins

Google Mobile Friendly Update: Your local business is probably fine

As a business owner you're probably aware of Google's "mobile friendly" algorithm update that happened in April, right? Basically, they now use whether they deem your site to be "mobile friendly" or not as a ranking factor in their search results.

Many businesses that hadn't been given the mobile-friendly tag in search results were worried it would lose them website traffic and sales. It became a hot topic for small and large businesses alike and many spent time and money preparing their sites for the April 21st roll-out. But what came of it all? And how has it affected your local business?

Not a huge amount changed in the search results. Especially for local businesses.

So much for "MOBILEGEDDON"... Unless you were ranking highly for keywords you won't have noticed a big difference in rankings and traffic. The update has eliminated a lot of non-mobile-friendly pages from the first page of results (and only on mobile, not desktop!), which is to be expected, but there are exceptions! These exceptions are especially relevant to local businesses.

You will still rank high for your brand or business name.

Not many local or small businesses looking to do business with customers in their locality will be competing in the tough ground of generic keywords. This is where the most damage was done and these searches are dominated by big national or international players with huge budgets to spend on search engine optimisation. Local businesses are more likely to want to rank for their brand or business name as a supplement to their local marketing and networking. In this case the name of your website is a much more powerful ranking factor to Google, so if your site isn't mobile-friendly you are probably still going to get the top spot.

Google's local business listings will work in your favour.

When searching for local businesses, people usually type in generic terms for the business which as we have already discussed, is often for the big players. However, Google's Local listings are here to save the day! People searching for your type of business on their mobile are often on the go and Google helps them out by supplying a map of local businesses. So if your website isn't mobile-friendly yet but you are on Google Maps you are likely to still appear somewhere at the top!

If you are mobile-friendly don't expect to have jumped up the rankings.

Google have only made mobile-friendly a ranking factor alongside over 200 others that they use in their algorithm; so it isn't the secret sauce to get to the top, otherwise they would never have announced it. So the penalties for non-mobile-friendly-sites have been fairly small and the promotions have been minimal. If you're site is lacking in other factors that Google looks at then you are probably still going to be held back. Hopefully you haven't been sold a mobile-friendly website as the way to get more search traffic because that would be a lie. Nobody knew what was going to happen!

There are much better reasons for your website to be mobile-friendly.

The reason behind Google's update is to help usher along a now widely accepted practice; websites should respond to the size of device they are viewed on. The design might respond, so might the layout and so might the content or the priority of the content.

This is all to make sure a visitor gets the best and most relevant experience on your website for the medium they are viewing it with. This is the important part whether you are a local business or a multi-national.

I worry that businesses are being sold responsive websites as part of a tick box exercise for google rankings. A mobile friendly website in the eyes of the Google Bot might not be the optimal experience for your customers.

You might have a great spot on Google but if people get a poor experience once they hit your site they won't stick around and spend money with you. I'll be writing about the kinds of mobile-friendly site a local business needs in a future post.

I’m Dan Hawkins and I write about how people can make their websites start working for their business. When I’m not writing, I also make websites for businesses and people. You can read more about my process and approach to web design if you'd like.

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