What mobile means for your site

What mobile means for your site's search ranking

The mobile movement is picking up momentum.

According to a Pew Research Center’s analysis of comScore data, 39 of the top 50 digital news websites get more traffic to their sites from mobile devices than from desktop computers.

Acknowledging this trend, Google recently added “mobile friendliness” to the algorithms it uses to rank websites in its search results.  Web pages not meeting Google’s new standards may be penalized by not being featured on the first page of search results, a significant blow since searchers rarely venture beyond the first page of results.    

And as citizens often use Google to find a government website, this change could be bad news for sites  that do not meet the new mobile-friendly standards.

Eleven of the 24 largest government websites -- the main sites for the Defense Department, the General Services Administration, the Department of Veterans Affairs, Homeland Security, the Department of Treasury, the Environmental Protection Agency, Housing and Urban Development, the Office of Personnel Management, the National Archives and the Internal Revenue Service, along with Weather.gov -- did not meet Google’s mobile standard, according to an informal NextGov survey.   

And that’s just a handful of federal agencies. State and local governments may have less ability to convert websites to responsive design or HTML5.

Some agencies, of course, are creating mobile applications for their services, which could reduce mobile demand for their main websites. “[W]hile Google remains the dominant search engine on every computing platform, its grasp on the mobile market is slipping in the face of increased competition from ‘native’ apps expressly meant for mobile devices,” according to the New York Times.   

But Google is is not losing its influence, The Times said, writing that “[w]ebsites have little choice but to adapt to what Google considers important characteristics.”  For some government agencies, this could be problematic.

Test your favorite government website by visiting: https://www.google.com/webmasters/tools/mobile-friendly/. The tool provides instant analysis and advice on how to improve a site’s mobile visibility.

About the Author

Mark Pomerleau is a former editorial fellow with GCN and Defense Systems.

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