In previous articles, we discussed the importance of having a website that is ‘mobile-friendly’. Talk must now move to action, as Google is getting serious about the importance of mobile-friendly sites and will now start penalizing rankings for websites that are not mobile-friendly.

Back in February Google announced on its webmasters blog that there will be penalties in mobile rankings for websites that are not mobile-friendly.

Why This Is Important To You
Google is penalizing sites – why should I care? Take a look at these statistics:

• Over 60% of Google’s traffic is now from mobile devices

• Mobile-based searchers have a higher intent to purchase

• 78% of all consumers who search for a local business end up making a purchase

So, if you don’t care if you lose over 50% of your website traffic, or want those 3-out-of-4 mobile searchers – searchers who are looking for your smoke and vapor products – to go to your competition, then you can stop reading now.

However, if you do care about losing off-line sales due to a drop in website traffic, then continue reading to see how you can work to avoid the penalty.

“This algorithm change will have a bigger impact than Panda or Penguin.” – Zineb Ait Bahajji, Google Webmaster Trends Team

A quick note about the penalty – it is going to be ‘binary’, which means that Google will be evaluating each page of your site with a simple ‘yes/no’ question – Is this site mobile-friendly. There won’t be a grading scale, so your site won’t be 40% mobile-friendly, or 83% mobile friendly – it’s like being pregnant – you either are or are not.

Check Your Site’s Mobile-Friendliness
You can do a free check of how Google views your website – whether they think that it’s mobile-friendly – by visiting the website below. Simply enter your domain name and click “Analyze”. Google’s search bot will go to your website and analyze it and give you their answer to whether they think that your site is designed for mobile devices.

Double-check Your Site – Even if it is Mobile-Friendly
Even if you have a website that has responsive (natively mobile-friendly) website design, take the test anyway. We had a strange scenario where we had a client respond to our notification email about being mobile-friendly and he tested his site, which was built with on a responsive website theme. He was surprised that Google said that his site was not mobile-friendly.

We went straight to our mobile phones and confirmed that his site rendered properly for mobile devices, however, he had a typo in a link at the bottom of his pages that threw up a red flag to Google because there were a lot of ‘broken links’ on his site. We quickly resolved the issue, but if he hadn’t done the check, we all would have go along thinking that his site was okay, when in fact Google would start penalizing him.

Some of the items that will cause errors when Google searches your site:

• Blocked javascript, CSS and image files

• 404 errors (see our example)

• Interstitial advertising (if you have a full-page ad that pops up on your site – for example to have people download your app)

• Non-relevant cross links

• Unplayable Content (if you have content on your site that is unplayable on smartphones, it will trigger the penalty. The most common case is going to be items, like videos or animations, that are written in Flash, because Apple products cannot play those files)

• Slow loading mobile pages

How to Fix Your Non-Mobile Site
Just as there are multiple ways to fix a broken leg, there are multiple ways to fix your website so that it is mobile-friendly.

Mobile Landing Pages
You can create a mobile landing page. This is a single page of content that is designed to be mobile friendly, but requires a click-through to the full website. This is the “I’ll put a bandage on my broken leg and hope it heals” method. You are doing something to fix the problem, but it’s a horrible solution.

Third Party Applications
There are some tools and websites that will use a computer generated algorithm to grab the content of your site and try to render it in a mobile-friendly format. There is no guarantee that the information being gathered is totally correct, and it redirects the users from your core website to their hosted mobile page. This is equivalent to putting a splint on your broken leg and hoping it heals properly (resulting in you being hobbled throughout your future).

Mobile Responsive Sites
Get to the ER and get that leg fixed right! A responsive website design means that the content that is on your website will reconfigure itself automatically to fit the size screen on which it is being viewed. It is by far the best and most preferred way to serve your website content to the mobile public. Also, it is the best long-term solution to ensure that your site is constantly staying updated with the new design features that are coming out.

Mobile Usage is Dominating our Lives
I touched on a few statistics regarding mobile usage, but here are a few more statistics that were presented in a Huffington Post article recently:

• Among U.S. adults, 22.9% of all media time in 2014 was spent on mobile

• Mobile searches (roughly 85.9 billion) will surpass desktop searches in 2015

• 57% of the United States owns a smartphone

• 81% of conversions from mobile search happen within five hours of the search

As smoke and/or vapor shop owners, the last item listed here should be the #1 item that catches your attention – 81% (that’s 4 out of 5 people) who make a purchase after a mobile search do so within 5 hours of making the search. As local businesses who are trying to drive people through your doors to make a purchase, it is imperative that you show up at the top of the local search engines when people are looking for smoke or vapor products. 80% of them are going to make a purchase, and if you aren’t at the top of the search engines, those purchases are going to your competitor who is.

20% OFF Mobile Websites
It is critically important that you get your website configured for mobile usage, so we are offering a Smoke Shop Advisor special promotion for you to get 20% off a new responsive, mobile-friendly website. Whether you just have a fairly simple site that shows some of your products, or a robust ecommerce website with thousands of items, we can create a new site, or recreate your existing site, in an attractive, mobile-friendly format that Google will love. SSA

Jeff Arnold Headshot

Jeffrey Arnold is the President of 4Spot Marketing, and has been involved with Internet marketing for the past ten years.  He combines 25+ years of business management experience with his expert knowledge of search engine optimization and Internet marketing techniques to provide companies with comprehensive Internet marketing services.  His success is evidenced by his clients’ top Google rankings time and time again. Mr. Arnold can be reached at (702) 721-9763, via email at [email protected], or via his website at