Website owners are reluctant to make the change to mobile — but they could be making a big mistake. Mobile use is growing fast as more and more people use their smartphones to browse the web.

Website traffic from smartphones is increasing as well, with latest research showing more than 80% of mobile phone users using their devices, smartphones and tablets for online shopping.

In the US mobile traffic has now overtaken desktop computer traffic for the first time ever and the Uk is not far behind.

Leading e-commerce platforms report that almost half their site traffic in from mobiles while research by Google claims that it can be critical for small businesses to make an impact on smartphone searches.

Google claims that an incredible 94% of smartphone users seek out local information on their phone, with a remarkable 84% making that vital 'call to action' such as making a shopping purchase or making an enquiry.

Up to now Google insists that mobile-friendly sites have no significant advantage over other sites when it comes ranking pages for search query results.

But clearly it can only be a matter of time before Google, Bing and Yahoo take notice that more consumers than ever are browsing and shopping online from their smartphones.

Good user experience is almost a mantra at Google when it comes to giving webmasters advice on how best to structure websites to make them appeal to search spider bots.

The web search giant has already issued warnings to webmasters telling them they need to make their sites more mobile-friendly.

The notice follows the introduction of mobile-friendly labels on search results for sites that pass the mobile friendly test.

It's not a good time to bury your head in the sand over site design issues. If your site is not mobile-friendly, it may only be a matter of time before your site drops in ranking for your best search queries.

Obviously this can hurt your business, so it's important to understand what is needed to make your site mobile friendly.

The first task is to know exactly what mobile friendly means and what it takes to make your website qualify. Fortunately Google has set out the criteria needed to get your website classed as mobile friendly.

Here they are the main ones:

  • Size content to fit any screen so users don't have to scroll or zoom
  • Place links far enough apart to be easily tapped
  • Use text large enough to bet read without zooming
  • Avoid software not usually found on mobiles, such as Flash

There are now some useful online tools to check if your site looks good on mobile devices.

Check the Mobile usability report in your Google Webmaster Tools account. This report will tell you about your site's overall performance.

(Note: If you don't already have a Google Webmaster Tools account set up for your website, do so ASAP. It's a pretty simple process to set up and it's free. Once you have verified ownership of your site, Google will let you know if there are issues you need to resolve, and you will be notified of these type issues automatically as they crop up in the future.)

If you want to check individual URLs for mobile-friendliness, you can use the Google Developers Mobile-Friendly Test Tool to determine if Google is finding any issues. Read more on the Google Webmasters Mobile Guide to learn how to resolve the issues.

What To Do About It?

If you find that you have issues and your site is not currently mobile friendly, then you need to determine how big an issue it is for you. It's time to do a bit of digging.

Check Your Competition. Is the mobile-friendly label displaying on their SERP listings? If it's on their site and not on yours, you will likely see a lower click-through rate from mobile device users as customers will go to the competition rather than you. If the competition doesn't have the label, this can quickly become a competitive advantage for you if you can update your site first.

Dig Into Your Analytics. Determine what percentage of your traffic is from a mobile device. It's possible that more than half of your traffic is mobile — many of my clients are seeing almost equal numbers between mobile and desktop traffic. If the mobile traffic percentage is high, you have a bigger issue than if it's low. Essentially, the higher the percentage, the more you're risking your performance.
Depending on the severity of the potential issue, you may need to consider moving your website to responsive design or creating a mobile-friendly site that's separate from your desktop experience.

While Google isn't explicitly saying that there's a mobile algorithm update on the horizon, the signs are pointing in that direction. Mobile traffic is definitely growing, and Google is again trying to ensure it delivers the best user experience possible by calling out mobile-friendly sites in its mobile search results and alerting webmasters of mobile issues.

By taking a few minutes now to determine if your site is mobile-friendly or not, you can either find yourself with a competitive advantage or needing to quickly play catch up. It's important to understand how Google views your website in order to stay competitive.

Some opinions expressed in this article may be those of a guest author and not necessarily Search Engine Land. Staff authors are listed here.

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Mobile usage is growing, and if you think this doesn't impact you.... you're very likely wrong.

U.S. smartphone penetration is now at 75% as of December 2014, up from 65.2% in December 2013, meaning that traffic from mobile is likely to be increasing as well. In fact, in late 2014, mobile traffic surpassed desktop traffic for the first time.

Mobile device owners aren't just using their devices for fun, either -- according to a report from Nielsen, 87% of smartphone and tablet owners report using their mobile devices for shopping activities. And Shopify reported 50.3% of traffic to its e-commerce platform was from mobile devices with the other 49.7% from desktop in August 2014.

Furthermore, research from Google drives home just how important mobile is to local businesses:

Appearing on smartphones is critical for local businesses. 94% of smartphone users look for local information on their phone and 84% take action as a result, such as making a purchase or contacting the business.

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