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For quite some time, Google has been the established “Big Brother” of the Internet. Changes in Google search algorithms can have a serious impact on how easily your website can (or cannot) be found. That’s why their recent update has so many website owners in a tizzy — because as of April 21, Google’s newest search ranking factor is mobile-friendliness.

If your website isn’t mobile optimized, now is the time to do so.

Google’s new SEO update doesn’t come as much of a surprise. After all, mobile browsing is becoming one of the most popular ways people seek information. But given that 91% of small businesses are still without mobile-optimized sites, this change can mean a severe decrease in website visitors and limited visibility for smaller companies.

This update is just one ranking factor out of more than 200, but it can still have a huge impact on your search rankings. SmartCompany estimates that small business owners without a responsive or mobile-optimized website could lose 20-30% of their traffic.

The best way to avoid Google SEO fallout? Mobile optimize your website as soon as possible. Google offers a couple of free tools to help you identify mobile usability issues in preparation for this change: Mobile-Friendly Test and Mobile Usability Report. The tools can tell you whether each page of your website has a mobile-friendly design and identify problematic areas that are not optimized.

If you haven’t done anything thus far to make your website mobile-ready, you should first consider what approach you would like to take.

  • Responsive design — This approach uses a single website that adjusts to provide an optimal view regardless of the device the user is browsing on. It minimizes the need to resize, pan, and scroll — all of which can be problematic on small screens. While this may sound like the most obvious choice, it is more difficult to pull off as it requires extra attention to ensure information renders exactly as you intend it to.
  • RESS/Adaptive/Dynamic Serving — Commonly known as adaptive design, this approach uses several distinct layouts created ahead of time to fit specific screen sizes. For example, there may be one design for mobile devices, one for tablets, and one for the traditional desktop. When the site detects the type of device being used by a browser, it will automatically deliver the best suited layout. This style is easier to create but offers less flexibility and will not always display perfectly on every screen.
  • Separate Mobile Site — This is just what it sounds like — you keep your normal website as is and build a separate one exclusively for mobile use. Similar to adaptive design, it uses user-agent detection to route mobile browsers to the mobile-suited website. It is the easiest option for adding to an existing website, but it does have some drawbacks. Because the site is separate from your desktop one, each must be maintained independently. User-agent detection is also not a perfect system — some of your desktop browsers might be accidently routed to your mobile site and vice versa.

If you aren’t sure which approach is right for you, an SEO and Web design expert can advise you on the best option for your business.

Don’t be left behind in the new SEO movement! Mobile optimize your website to make Google — and more important, your customers — happy.