As mobile usage continues to grow at an astounding pace, Google wants to make sure that the search results it is serving deliver an exceptional user experience, regardless of device. As mentioned in this Google Webmaster Central blog post in June 2013, Google has been providing recommendations for making websites mobile-friendly and how to avoid typical issues for nearly two years. Why the push for mobile? It should come as little surprise that mobile is rapidly gaining popularity as the method of choice for browsing the Internet. According to one study, a quarter of all web traffic now comes from handheld devices.
Although Google has made a few search algorithm tweaks since it began making these recommendations, its latest update will greatly accelerate the promotion of mobile-friendly design. On April 21, Google’s newest search algorithm will begin to use mobile-friendly design as an important criterion to affect ranking on mobile search engine results pages (SERPs). Websites with mobile-friendly design will have higher positioning on the SERPs; mobile-unfriendly sites will likely see a drop in ranking.
Now that Google has explicitly announced that mobile-friendliness is going to be a ranking factor, we would like to take this opportunity to answer some questions we’ve been hearing from our customers regarding confusion and misinformation about this algorithm change, and our approach to mobile design.
What is Seamless?
The Dealer.com Seamless platform is rooted in mobile-friendly design, providing a tailored, device-specific experience rather than simply a “scaled down” version of a desktop site.
Why aren’t you using 100% responsive design?
Seamless is a “hybrid” of responsive design and dynamic serving, providing dealerships with the best and simplest way to optimize mobile page version customizations for an optimal user experience. For example, a media-heavy page originally designed for the desktop will reduce page load speeds on mobile. By removing some of the media heavy content on the mobile version of the page, we can more effectively direct users to the information they are seeking in the shortest time possible.
If Google “recommends responsive,” why go with anything other than a purely responsive design?
It’s true that Google has in the past recommended responsive design for the average website. But dealers need more than average functionality to meet the needs of today’s mobile shoppers. Dealers need engaging, mobile-specific retailing experiences. And this level of functionality can be delivered with NO impact on your search ranking – a fact that is well documented.
Don’t take our word for it. There is a plethora of SEO news and opinion resources discussing this – Google Think Insights, Google Developers Guidelines, Search Engine Watch, to name a few – yet we continue to see the responsive myth used as a sales tactic. Furthermore, Gary Illyes, Webmaster Trends Analyst for Google, said at SMX West earlier this month that “Responsive does NOT have a ranking benefit.”
In short, any attempt to position purely responsive design as the sole “recommended” solution should be viewed with skepticism. Responsive design can – and we believe should – be combined with other more advanced web design and retailing functionality to ensure optimal site performance and complete alignment with the ever evolving search engines.
Am I Mobile-Friendly?
If you have a Dealer.com website, yes, your site is mobile-friendly. To confirm this yourself, check out Google’s mobile-friendly test, a great barometer for your site’s performance. Here’s a screenshot:
Our Seamless websites also have a “Mobile-friendly” tag in the search results:
Within Google Webmaster Tools (GWT) is a Mobile Usability section that alerts webmasters to any potential mobile issues your site may be having. Email notifications alerting webmasters to mobile-friendly issues are being sent out from GWT. Here is an example from a personal website that has many mobile related issues:
This is the type of notification you should expect if your site isn’t mobile-friendly. As of this writing, we have yet to see any of these emails for Dealer.com platform customers, and we are vigilantly watching for them daily.
To reiterate, Google does recommend using responsive design because of its more simplistic nature. What it doesn’t mention in its resources is that this recommendation is for the average website, reaching the broadest swath of websites. Your dealership is anything but average, nor are your website needs. Anyone who tells you otherwise doesn’t understand your business, your users or your customers. Dealer.com builds Seamless Websites to deliver an exceptional user experience within the complex nature of automotive retail, providing both dealers and their customers the most intuitive digital solution in the in industry.
We’ll provide an update shortly after the new algorithm launches on April 21 to share our observations.
Pete Bruhn is an SEO Product Manager at Dealer.com