Website Design teams are an exceedingly happy bunch these days. As many readers know, "Mobilegeddon," perhaps the most annoying hyperbole of the "geddon" suffix used to date, meant that in early 2015 Google stated that your website rankings would be penalized if your site wasn't 100% mobile-friendly by April 21st, 2015. And design teams have been busy-and-a-half ever since.
Despite that, April 21st has come and gone I haven't heard a single complaint from anybody about their non-responsive, non-mobile-friendly site being black listed, penalized, or otherwise adversely affected. So while the penalty likely occurred, the first round was not Earth shattering, and our guess is that there will be a series of penalties over time eventually forcing all sites to get mobile-friendly.
It got our team here at SEOversite and YellowTelescope thinking about all of the common misconceptions readily taken as fact by the larger business community and decided to write about it. Here are a few...
I Should Get Mobile-Friendly to Avoid Google Penalties
Well, yes, sure, we suppose. There is no question that while the first greatly-feared mobilegeddon went out with a wimper, with time, the penalties may worsen. In the long-run, certainly not having a mobile site will result in less impressive rankings.
Yet, this is not the main reason we believe going mobile, or in techy terms, "responsive," is of great importance. The facts are that around 50% of all search worldwide is now mobile and the numbers are rising. The new iPhone 6 seemed large 6 months ago, but as an owner of one, the iPhone 5 now seems small. For those of you who have held an iPhone 6 Plus (the largest one) I recall it feeling like holding a book to my face, but now feels just slightly oversized. The Apple Watch is now out for those who cannot be troubled to lift their phone from their pocket making mobile everything, well, just that: mobile everything. So our point is that if you don't have a truly mobile-friendly website you are missing out on customers and that is a much more compelling argument for action than avoiding a minor penalty in the short run from the internet-gods (aka Google).
Well, yes, sure, we suppose. Certainly, as noted in the Shakespeare-esque-level-talent writing known as the last paragraph, we note that people are searching more mobiley (seems like it should be a word - can we agree?) and that phones are getting larger. We do not believe, however, this is where most of the QUALITY search is stemming from. It is important to look at your customer.
Here at SEOversite and YellowTelescope we work wtih a lot of doctors (Ophthalmologists doing LASIK surgery, Plastic Surgeons selling breast and facial surgery and similar), a good number of attorneys seeking personal injury leads, real estate or corporate transaction leads, real estate groups seeking million dollar home buyers, and insurance agencies seeking professional liability leads. While we believe having a phone-friendly site is good for directions, a rare lead, and looking up credentials, we do not believe the vast majority of serious shoppers are saying "I think I'd like to find Philadelphia's best surgeon/attorney, why don't I grab my cell and make a $20,000 decision right now." We still believe the vast majority of serious shoppers are using desktops and laptops from work and late at night to carefully peruse the internet's offerings to find the best of the best.
So we are saying that we do want to be mobile-friendly, but phone search isn't serious search so we don't want to be mobile? Not quite. We are actually submitting for your consideration that it is not phones, but rather tablets - iPads and others - where the serious searcher is headed, and tablets need "responsive, mobile-friendly" design just like phones. While it may be months or years before cell phones are the place serious buyers go to purchase homes, surgery, law and insurance, it makes sense to go fully responsive to capture the rare birds who actually do so, but also to capture the ever-growing demographic who no longer use computers at all outside of work and only use tablets which are large and visually spectacular, thus attracting serious shoppers and quality leads in many industries.
Well, no. (Yes, we learned standard MLA format in AP and IB classes in highschool, and know we should not start sentences with "well", and yet, we do so anyway - we are true rebels - and thank you for reading this far into our fine article). Quite simply, how your site looks gives almost no indication of whether your design firm is honest, capable, competent, or delivered as promised.
A well-known reality is that anybody can download a "Templated Site" from places like Square Space for a very small investment that looks lovely and is reasonably functional. I have had more than a few clients pick out a site online when we asked them what sites they like only to find they picked a completely cookie cutter template stolen from a site mill. What we focus on here at SEOversite is what Google and similar search engines actual rank a site for achieving.
One interesting fact I was unaware of entering this industry is that websites in general are still literally coded from start to finish in similar fashion to how my computer science class used to teach me. I learned a strange coding language called Pascal, and it was a pseudo-English process of typing out commands and even a few letters off would cause bugs and issues. It taught us logic and also taught me that I would never be a programmer or developer. I just assumed after 20 years and how visually stunning things were that we were living in the age of space travel and visual affects like those in the new Jurassic World movie so therefore the days of intensive coding had passed. Not so - your custom built website still will take from 20 to over 120 true man hours to code out with a typical average of about 80. That means 2 weeks working full time on a single site. Most of our developer teams we recommend take 4-6 weeks to code a site.
That means 4-6 weeks of work during which a web team or developer can do things wrong. And if they do them wrong, the website is downgraded in the eyes of the search engine. Without getting too technical, hardcoding a website instead of dynamically coding, using obsolete language or platforms, duplicating content, using templates and themes, using tables incorrectly, and much more are all items many web design teams overlook or perform incorrectly. AND THE SITE WILL VISUALLY LOOK EXACTLY THE SAME WHEN THEY FINISH AS A PERFECTLY BUILT SITE = SCARY.
If you've seen the movie with Jean Claude Van Damme where he has an evil twin, but they both showcase the same washboard abs that I have today (yes, I look just like a young JCVD), a website well-made can look just like a train wreck of a website which is susceptible to virus or hack, and which will not rank as well with search engines. So be careful selecting a web team or perhaps have us help you find the right team - remember, we are as cheap as free...that is hard to beat (end of your one sales pitch for the day).
Optimizing your website's set up is a smart thing to do during the design phase. If you know what "Making keyword and location rich header tags and metadata" and "Structuring the site to feature a variety of dynamic content" means then please do so. If you don't, considering hiring experts to help as that is the easy stuff.
With that said, onsite optimization, unless you are a very small business in a tiny town with almost no competition, will simply not suffice. Hiring a web team to perform organic SEO or PPC (Google Adwords) or a combination of the two, if closely watched and well-managed, is the only way to truly drive an increase in site visitors and improve conversion. While this final point is not design-related, it is important to design with the end result in mind. And if the end result is supposed to be more leads, ensure you budget for the site build and then ongoing SEO of some sort. Depending on the industry, this sort of stuff starts around $700/month, averages from $1-4,000/month and we have many clients spending tens or hundreds of thousands monthly. While budgets need not be large, they do have to exist and starting your design project 3-6 months prior to expecting to have the budget for ongoing SEO makes sense.
Our team has many more misconceptions to review as we start to discuss SEO (for starters, we keep hearing the ridiculous suggestion that "SEO is dead" and we'd argue that folks just like to re-brand and are now calling seo "web marketing" or "content creation" or "user experience marketing" or whatever they think they can sell, but we digress...)
Until next time, we'd summarily state that if you want more leads you need a great website. If you don't have one, get a responsive site. If you have a site which is non-responsive, get mobile friendly, but do so for leads, not to appease Google. And as you dive in, make sure the site is custom coded and hire professionals if you don't have the expertise on staff to ensure things are done right as you budget and plan for what promises to be a great year to come.