Google’s Mobile-First Decision and Your Website

Mobile-First

Yours and many other websites maybe unusable by customers. Google realizes how bad this problem has become and is going to fix it if you don’t.

The fact of the matter is that the vast majority of consumers now use the Web primarily via their mobile devices. Consequently, if you’re serving up web pages that don’t work perfectly on a phone or tablet, then you’re frustrating your customer.

Many companies are ignoring this reality, but Google won’t.

Here’s the seismic shift taking place under the noses of many CMOs and marketing directors: Google announces that it’s officially rolling out mobile-first indexing for its search engine.

Google Looks at Your Customers as Their Customers First

Like it or not, Google (and Facebook – we’ll talk about them in a second) is the gatekeeper to the Web and your website. Their primary product is serving up the best possible solutions to all of those questions that you and billions like you ‘Google’ every day.

When Google sends a search user to a web page, it’s because their algorithm has declared that it has precisely the answer and information they need. That’s why Google has given it a favorable page rank. However, if that web page is not optimized for mobile phones, making it unusable to the majority of web users, it’s just creating a hugely frustrating user experience.

From Google’s perspective that’s a critical product failure.

Every time Google serves up that kind of experience they lose credibility, and that search user goes elsewhere to answer their question.

Google has grown tired of constantly serving up this kind of frustrating experience.

Google has been preaching mobile-first for years. They have given designers and developers tools and frameworks to assist in the transition. But, what Google has determined is that users using their mobile devices as their first and primary web browsing device is shifting much faster than business leaders making mobile-first decisions for their websites.

Google’s solution: They’re about to shove your desktop-first website to the bottom of the search results!

Urgent Warning and a Huge Opportunity

You can take this news in a couple of different ways depending on your current circumstances.

If you get a lot of web visitors from Google, then you need to urgently evaluate the quality of the mobile experience you are delivering.

If you’re doing a good job serving up mobile-first web pages, then you need to continue to optimize to secure your position as a quality result for Google’s search customers.

If you’re serving up desktop-first web pages, then you need to go into crisis mode and prioritize a mobile-first redesign for your website. If you don’t, you’re going to lose those coveted search rankings.

In this scenario, I would also encourage you to take a look at your mobile traffic. You’re probably already turning away a big percentage of your website visitors–high bounce rates, low time on site, low conversions, etc..

If you don’t get a lot of web visitors from Google, then this is a big opportunity. As Google shifts their search results to prefer mobile-first web pages, a lot of savvy marketers are going to get some big wins as Google essentially swaps out legacy websites with fresh mobile-first options.

Time for a Bold Move

You can address this incrementally, but I would recommend the Zuckerberg approach.

If I were pitching this initiative in my organization, I would lead with this story…

In 2012, Mark Zuckerberg made a bold strategic move that has made all the difference for Facebook’s current off the charts user and revenue growth rate.

Against a backdrop of a messy and error-ridden IPO, a stock price dipping below $20, well below their initial IPO price, revenues flagging, and all kinds of ‘experts’ predicting their demise Zuckerberg reported in a fateful SEC filing a warning that they were mobile-challenged and it was a risk to their future revenues.

Here’s the statement:

“…we do not currently directly generate any meaningful revenue from the use of Facebook mobile products, and our ability to do so successfully is unproven.”

Further down he warns…

“If users increasingly access Facebook mobile products as a substitute for access through personal computers, and if we are unable to successfully implement monetization strategies for our mobile users, or if we incur excessive expenses in this effort, our financial performance and ability to grow revenue would be negatively affected.”

Many of us could probably make a similar statement to our executives and shareholders about our current websites. That fact should elicit the same reaction that Facebook’s investors had–panic.

Despite that panic, Zuckerberg’s bold reaction to this radically changing market condition made all of the difference. His next move catapulted Facebook from below $20 to over $200 per share and from zero mobile advertising revenue to over $4 billion.

This is why I recommend that you pitch what’s now often referred to as Zuckerberg’s “billion-dollar conversation.”

At an all-hands meeting, he announced that “we’re going to be a mobile-first company.” Then he further enforced this edict with this policy: “Come in with mobile. If you come in and try to show me a desktop product, I’m going to kick you out. You have to come in and show me a mobile product.”

That was six years ago, and obviously, Zuckerberg was right. His example has taken all the risk out of us making this same move.

In fact, now that Google has declared a similar edict–if you show me a desktop web page, I’m going to kick you out of the Google search results–the biggest risk is not going mobile-first.

What’s Your Next Move?

Here’s the simple checklist I recommend you use to build your case for an urgent, bold move to mobile-first for your website:

  1. Document the current user experience. Test your home page and other key landing pages on your mobile phone. Use Google’s mobile-friendly testing tool or Browserstack to see where you stand.
  2. Determine the current impact on your website visitors. Using Google Analytics assess how your current mobile visitors are responding to your website. Focus on bounce rate, time-on-site, page view, and conversion rates as compared to your desktop visitors.
  3. Audit and document the risk. Using Google Analytics, AdWords, and an SEO tool, like SEMrush or Ahrefs to determine how much ‘paid’ and ‘organic’ or Google search traffic and conversions are potentially at risk.
  4. Determine the opportunity. Use Google Analytics to project the impact of a shift in your ratio of desktop to mobile visitors from what it is today to 50/50, 40/60 or 30/70. Ratios that are very typical of mobile-first websites. How much additional conversions and revenue would you add if you grew your mobile traffic to create these kinds of mobile-first ratios.
  5. Make the bold move. Have the “billion-dollar conversation” and make mobile-first a part of your marketing culture. Then, get a team that will redesign your website with a true mobile-first user experience and Facebook-like absolute attitude.

I won’t minimize how big an undertaking it is to shift a marketing organization and website to mobile-first. You’re probably going to have to shift perspective, culture, and talent in your organization. However, the impact of going mobile-first will unquestionably be epic, and the cost of not making this move soon will be rapid irrelevance on the web.

Kaleidico Can Help

If you need to make this strategic move, Kaleidico’s expertise can help from assessment to the execution of a mobile-first initiative.

As I mentioned earlier, these are not easy projects. As a small, but an elite team in this area, we only take on a few of these kinds of transformational projects a year. But, we don’t want to miss a cool opportunity to make a big impact for an interesting company.

If you want us to do a quick assessment or even just discuss the potential in your moving to mobile-first tell us about your project. We might not be a fit, but we love talking to smart people about big ideas.