This Tuesday, April 21st, Google will be making a major change to its mobile search algorithm to favor those websites which are mobile-responsive. This means that for searches done from phones and tablets, the ranking of websites in the search results will be directly impacted by whether or not the resulting websites are mobile-friendly. As some 50% of online traffic now comes from mobile devices, this is a big deal, and businesses whose websites aren’t mobile-friendly will find themselves “demoted” in search results. Dubbed “Mobilegeddon” for the huge impact it is expected to have on search results, it is effectively moving responsive websites from “optional” to “required” for businesses.

Why Is This Happening?

Mobile device usage has been growing exponentially for several years. (See one of our posts about this back in 2011.) Companies have been encouraged to incorporate responsive design into their websites to provide mobile-friendly experiences. While many have adopted responsive websites, there are others who opted to wait. Many of these are small businesses who were not convinced that the value of this change would exceed the cost to implement a responsive structure. We’ve been reaching out to our clients for at least two years to encourage an upgrade to responsive; many upgraded, but quite a few declined—stating they did not believe that their target market(s) were using mobile devices to search for their businesses. For these and other reasons, a fair number of businesses have not converted their sites to a mobile structure. Small businesses are not alone; last week, Somo released a study that found a bunch of big brands without responsive websites: American Apparel, The Daily Mail, and Ryanair to name a few.

Google wants users to have a good experience when they click on a link from a mobile device. This change in ranking is how they will help ensure a good mobile-friendly experience. Google’s explanation makes good sense. They state: “When it comes to searching on mobile devices, users should get the most relevant and timely results, no matter if the information lives on mobile-friendly web pages or apps. As more people use mobile devices to access the internet, our algorithms have to adapt to these usage patterns. Users will find it easier to get relevant, high quality search results that are optimized for their devices.”

What Does This Mean for Your Business?

If your website is not mobile friendly, now is the time to reach out to your web firm and enlist their help in re-structuring your site. (If you built your website yourself, or used an online site builder, Google offers suggestions on how to remedy your situation.)

Try not to panic— if your site is not currently responsive, you likely do not get much mobile traffic at this point, and may not feel the impact immediately. The reality is that if your site doesn’t offer a mobile experience, you’ve probably been losing the traffic that you have been getting (think high bounce rate), which means you were not benefiting from it. Don’t mistake this to mean that Mobilegeddon (and making your website responsive) is not important. It is critical! You will unquestionably see an impact; it just might not be overnight. If you need to sell this important change upstream, consider checking out Bryson Meunier’s (guest author at Search Engine Land) means of estimating how much traffic you might lose as a result of mobilegeddon.

The good news—when you make your website responsive, you should get a big bump in traffic. Take Mobilegeddon as incentive to make a much-needed change. You’ll be catching up with what consumers are asking for and gaining valuable traffic in the process.