John Mueller is a senior webmaster trends analyst at the search giant. He is responsible for some serious activity at Google so when he says something we listen very carefully! In a recent Hangout he said that a mobile website would suffice and not having a desktop version wouldn't affect your search engine ranking positions (SERPS).
This is an interesting move for Google, but not one that is unexpected for people who work in the digital marketing sector. We have seen Google focus on mobile search and hone their AdWords platform towards it for a few years now. As a result many designers have been going back to old clients and pointing out that they now need a mobile website and that it should be high up on a businesses online marketing strategy.
Is Google Right To Drop Desktop Websites?
Just because Google have said this should we not bother with desktop websites anymore? We don't think so! As a business you will spend most of your day sat in front of a desktop computer or laptop. Yes, you can do most things on a tablet or phone nowadays but we agree with Cisco's Diane Pease who reacted to the news in the following way: "It might be interesting to see down the road if [Mueller] might be right, but at the end of the day, there are things that you just find easier to do on a desktop," Pease says. "You can use Excel on your phone, but if you're trying to crank out some serious stuff, you're going to want a keyboard."
We totally agree with Diane. This is especially true If you operate in the B2B sector where you're crunching facts and figures. However mobile websites are an important aspect of any business' online strategy as you want your visitors interaction to be as pleasing as possible. Having to pinch to zoom in on content on a desktop-only website is such a pain and you will inevitably suffer higher bounce rates as a result of poor user experinces. But people are still using a laptop or desktop for the majority of their serious work so you can't ignore them.
When people are looking into a new product or service they may start researching on any one of the mainstream devices. As a result you've got to ensure they can initially find you and the subsequent experience they receive persuades them to get in touch. This is where responsive websites come into play as they should deliver a great experience on all devices...the problem we've seen is that many aren't that great to use.
Responsive websites have been built with the desktop in mind first and then the designer will have just made everything else fit in for other devices rather than strategically thinking about a cross-device user experience. So what should you be doing?
Tips For A Great Cross-Device Experience
Ensuring that your website works across all devices is a key strategy for great rankings on search engines. Google et al will love the fact that the site works great on a mobile or tablet but you've got to ensure it also works on desktops and laptops. A site that doesn't perform well on a mobile won't get ranked by Google for mobile-searches, so here is what we suggest you focus on:
Plan the website from the mobile device perspective first
Scale up content if required for tablets and desktops
Ensure that Calls-To-Action's are clear and easy to find on all devices
Keep the navigation easy to use
Speak to your designer about costs - it shouldn't be that expensive!
To close this article I wanted to say that I think Mueller is using a scare tactic here. Yes many consumers use mobile devices to search the Internet and in 2014 these devices surpassed desktop searches on Google for the first time. However not to have a desktop website will alienate many users, especially if you operate in the B2B arena. Mueller and Google want you to ensure that all users have a great experience and stating what they have will generate fear and worry in many website owners minds, but they shouldn't panic, just start to get it sorted out and ensure your user experience is bang on for everyone. Not only will you rank better for search terms your users will love the experience.