Last Tuesday, Google released substantial changes to its search algorithm. In a nutshell, these changes mean that websites that are responsive (mobile-friendly) are now (most of the time; there are exceptions to every algorithmic rule) getting (much) higher placement in search results.
But…will the book industry notice? Should authors and publishers care?
You can find as many answers to this as Nancy Drew had pairs of nylons. My answer? Is yes, you should care. Why? Numbers.
Specifically: 64% of American adults own a smartphone. 42% own a tablet computer. (If you want more detail on these stats, click here and/or here.) And we already know that a lot of people browse for books and look up authors online. So being easy to find from mobile devices has value. Why would you want to hide from as much as half of your audience?
So, some facts…
- Google’s actions this week weren’t a surprise. They announced this change in February. And it makes sense. After all, their customers are everyone who uses Google to search, regardless of screen size.
- A website can look good on a small screen without being responsive. Google’s mobile-friendly test doesn’t assess how a site looks, but rather whether the functionality adjusts to different screen sizes.
- If your site is not responsive—doesn’t pass the above-linked test—you should assume that your ranking in search results will suffer. Whether it actually does or not will be determined by how people search and the intricacies of the damned algorithm.
But the thing is, there’s no reason to have a site that’s not responsive. Because it’s not as if this mobile thing is a new phenomenon. And why would you want to be anything but as easy to find as possible?
The good news here is that making a site responsive is not hard. If your site is built in WordPress, your theme is probably already responsive. If not, chances are good you have Jetpack installed, and it has a module that will make your site responsive with only a few clicks (and it’s free). Most (if not, at this stage, all) of the other platforms have a tool to easily make your site responsive, too; Google has a guide to them here.
Now that I have you good and panicked, I’ll leave you with this: While Google is now prioritizing mobile-friendly sites in their search results, they also took care to note that sites with high-quality content that aren’t mobile-friendly could still rank high, providing it has results for any given query. So having a website is still, as it has always been, about content.
So above all else, keep writing great books.