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'Mobilegeddon' for dental websites is April 21: Are you ready?

April 20, 2015
Tomorrow is the day that Google reorganizes its search engines according to mobile friendliness, and if your website isn't mobile-friendly, it will be downgraded on mobile devices. Since statistics show that well over a quarter of patients are finding dentists and booking appointments via their smartphones, you need to pay attention to upgrading your dental website.

In late February, Google announced that they believe the world will be a better place if every website is mobile-friendly. Starting tomorrow, April 21, whether or not your website is mobile-friendly will be a factor in its ranking algorithms.

If you haven’t noticed, Google has appointed itself the nanny of the Internet. They feel they know what’s best for us, so they announce rules and expect us to follow them. Because of their dominant influence, webmasters obey. While we may feel their tactics are heavy handed, they do have a point—mobile is very convenient.

RELATED ARTICLE:Will your dental practice website disappear on April 21? Google has some new rules coming up

I’ll illustrate my point. I was in the store the other day looking for razor blades. The store didn’t have the kind I wanted, so I pulled out my phone, found what I needed on Amazon, ordered it on the spot, and checked it off my shopping list. Yes, I could have waited until I got home, but it was simply more convenient to order while it was on my mind.

Mobile is the growing trend. A lot of people are realizing that their living room chair is more comfortable than their computer desk, and if they can get what they want while sitting in their chair, they won’t go to their desk. Or, they might want to look up something while chatting with their friend or while on the road. Or, they might be at work and feel it’s unwise to use their work computer for something. We have our phones with us almost at all times, and we’re using them more and more.

Here at Infinity Dental Web, our research shows that in January 2015, 30% of patients searching for a dentist and following through to make an appointment with one of our clients were doing so from their smartphone. In March that percentage inched up to 31%.

RELATED ARTICLE: Today's dental marketing means being familiar with variety of screens and devices

Before I get to this mobile-friendly deadline, I should explain the difference between mobile-compatible and mobile-friendly. Almost every website is mobile compatible in that it will function on a mobile device. Mobile-friendly sets a higher standard. If you have to zoom in with your fingers and be constantly scrolling from side to side in order to read the text and see the pictures, then it’s not mobile friendly.

Most people visiting from a smartphone will quickly leave a website that isn’t mobile friendly. If this describes your website, you’re missing a lot of new patient calls. Starting on April 21, you’re going to miss even more because Google is going to downgrade your rankings. Here’s how they included that in their February announcement:

“Starting April 21, we will be expanding our use of mobile-friendliness as a ranking signal. This change will affect mobile searches in all languages worldwide and will have a significant impact in our search results.”

Some have referred to tomorrow’s deadline as “Mobilegeddon.”

What to do if my website is not mobile friendly?
While you should take Google seriously, it isn’t quite the apocalypse that some are portraying—your website won’t be forever doomed if you don’t make the deadline. One aspect of this Google algorithm change is that your rankings will be continually updated. Once you convert to a mobile-friendly design, your website should fully recover as soon as Google notices the change. Also, while this algorithm change will directly affect your rankings in mobile search, its effects on desktop search will be indirect and therefore muted.

How to make the change?
The best way to make your website mobile friendly is to use what’s called a “mobile responsive design.” This type of design makes your website automatically adjust itself based on the screen size of the device displaying it. The text on the website is then adjusted to a readable size, and the remaining elements, if the coding is done intelligently, are also optimized to match the mobile device.

A final tip—if you’ve been thinking about getting a website redesign and your website company has expertise in responsive technology, it may make sense to do the redesign and incorporate responsiveness into that design at the same time. This will make the redesign more economical.

David A. Hall, DDS, AAACD, was a solo practitioner in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, for many years. In 2009 he founded Infinity Dental Web, a company in Mesa, Arizona, that does complete Internet marketing for dentist. He currently serves as its president.