April 21st, a Responsive Website Will be a Ranking Criteria on Google

responsive website

How are your customers accessing your small business website? And more importantly, what does it look like when they do?

The simple fact is that mobile device usage is on the rise. Last year marked the first when mobile Internet traffic surpassed desktop traffic, and recent reports show that 60 percent of total digital media time is spent on smartphones and tablets.

What this means for your small business is that more customers are finding your website on mobile devices. And if it’s not optimized for mobile viewing, they’re clicking away to your competition. The best way to ensure a seamless mobile experience for all of your website visitors is by using responsive Web design.

What is Responsive Design?

Simply defined, a responsive website automatically displays the correct settings that will make Web pages viewable and usable according to the device it’s being accessed from. Responsive design sizes your pages, text, and link spacing to fit the size of the screen. In addition, a responsively designed website uses mobile-friendly features like:

  • Eliminating Flash content and other media that doesn’t work on mobile operating systems.
  • Using proper mobile redirects and mobile 404 pages.
  • Ensuring fast mobile page load times.
  • Eliminating full-screen interstitials that block mobile page views.

Here are some of the main reasons your small business needs a responsive website.

Users Expect Mobile Friendly Websites

Mobile devices are ubiquitous among consumers today, and more of them expect your website to display properly on their mobile screens. In fact, a Google study found that 72 percent of users expect websites to work on mobile platforms — and 61 percent will leave the site if it’s not mobile friendly.

What’s more, 85 percent of adult users expect a mobile website to be just as good as a desktop site, which is achievable through responsive design.

Local Mobile Search Drives Results

Users rely heavily on their devices to find local businesses. More than 50 percent of mobile users rely on their smartphones for purchase decisions. And regarding local searches, Search Engine Watch finds that:

  • 59 percent of users search for reputable local business on Google.
  • 50 percent of mobile searches are conducted with the goal of local results.
  • 61 percent of local searches result in a purchase.

Mobile Ad Spending and Mobile Traffic Increasing

As online time continues to shift to mobile, more businesses are investing in mobile ad spending. Mobile revenue increased by nearly $7 billion at both Google and Facebook in 2013, and eMarketer forecasts that mobile ad spending will top $45 billion for 2015.

The rate of mobile traffic will continue to increase substantially, as well. According to the latest Cisco Visual Networking Index, mobile data traffic will increase more than 10 times to 97 percent by 2019.

Google Prefers Mobile-Friendly Websites

Perhaps the most compelling reason to ensure that your small business site is a responsive website is Google. The world’s most popular search engine, which currently owns 83 percent of the mobile market share, stated in 2012 that its algorithms prefer responsive design and the most recent Google algorithm update reinforces the search engine giant’s dedication to mobile-friendly pages.

Beginning April 21, mobile friendliness will be a ranking criteria for websites on Google. The algorithms will favor mobile-friendly sites, using a real-time, page-by-page basis to determine mobile friendliness, and penalize sites that display poorly on mobile devices. A website that is not a responsive website or mobile-friendly will suffer negative SEO and decreased search engine rankings.

Google has a number of criteria for determining the mobile-friendliness of a website. If you’re not sure whether your website meets the criteria, you can use Google’s free testing tool to analyze your pages, and receive suggestions on how to improve the mobile responsiveness of your website.

Mobile Web Photo via Shutterstock


Megan Totka Megan Totka is the Chief Editor for Chamber of Commerce. Chamber specializes in helping SMB's grow their business on the Web while facilitating the connectivity between local businesses and more than 7,000 Chambers of Commerce worldwide. Megan specializes in reporting the latest business news, helpful tips and reliable resources and provides advice through her column on the Chamber blog.

15 Reactions
  1. For many industries there are now more searches being done on mobile devices than on desktops/laptops. This means that for a majority of Google’s customers, if your site isn’t responsive it will lead to a poor experience. Google is wise to recognize this will reflect badly on them.

    And really, this is something that savvy SMBs should have already dealt with and if you needed a push, here it is.

    • Agreed, Robert! Any sites that don’t make the move to mobile-friendly will pay in the form of lost revenue!

  2. A savvy business will not only address mobile-friendly website issues, it will evaluate its overall Internet strategy. Of course, the near term goal is to avoid the loss of traffic from Google’s mobile users. To become mobile friendly, some websites only need minor tweaks, while others need a redesign.

    Scoring well on Google’s speed and mobile user experience tests often requires changes to your website’s graphics, code, and server settings. Most web designers are not up to this task, a team effort is needed.

    Unlike previous changes to its ranking algorithms, Google provides tests to enable you to see how they evaluate mobile friendliness.

    I created a fast-loading page that scores 100/100 on all three of Google’s speed and user experience tests. The page has a link to Google’s free test page:


    Check your website to get Google’s score.

    • Thanks, Donald. I agree — for optimal results, you really do need a team effort, involving web designers, programmers, and administrators. Thanks for the tip on verifying mobile-friendliness.

  3. Here is some information about ideal image size for mobile websites. http://www.avidmobile.com/blog/mobile-websites-ideal-image-size.php

  4. I’m wondering if Google has a more or less favorable opinion of a full version site that is responsive or a mobile version of the site or is there a difference?