Google update could decrease non-profit organizations web traffic

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A change in Google’s formula for prioritizing search results could keep churches and Christian non-profit organizations without mobile-friendly websites from being as visible online to potential visitors.

Starting April 21, Google updated its algorithms for searches done from mobile devices to give higher placement in the results to websites that are compatible with such devices. That means organizations with older, more basic websites may not appear among the top results when, for example, mobile phone users search for “pregnancy alternatives” and their city.

“Why is this a concern?” asked Michael Magruder, director of LifeWay.com. “Google estimates that over 60 percent of search queries currently originate from mobile devices. The biggest question businesses and organizations ask is, ‘How do I know if my website is mobile optimized?'”

Tony Boes, web developer, said that there are simple ways an organization can determine whether its website qualifies as mobile-friendly. First, pull up the site on a mobile phone. If it fits the screen well and has buttons that are a clickable size, the site likely is mobile-friendly.

For a definitive answer to the question of whether a site is mobile-friendly, an organization can visit Google’s “Mobile-Friendly Test” website, Boes said. Simply enter the URL of your organization’s website on that page, and Google will tell you whether it is mobile-friendly as well as provide links to information about how to improve the site.

Mobile-friendly sites, according to Google’s Webmaster Central Blog:

  • Avoid using software that is not common on mobile devices, like Adobe Flash Player;
  • Use text that is readable without zooming;
  • Size content to the screen so users don’t have to scroll horizontally to view the site; and
  • Place links far enough apart that the correct one can be tapped easily.

Because as many as 40 percent of websites fail to meet Google’s mobile-friendly criteria, some experts predicted the algorithm change would have a major impact, a scenario they dubbed “Mobilegeddon.”

Chris Thurman, web designer, said he has “not noticed a huge difference in the [Google] rankings from some of our clients [in the business world] who did not optimize for mobile.” He speculated, however, that Google may be rolling out its update gradually in a way that does not affect all industries simultaneously.

Regardless of the change to Google’s search algorithm, Boes said it is important for non-profit organizations to optimize their websites for mobile traffic.

Becoming mobile-friendly “is only going to get more important for any website that’s out there, whether or not you’re a non-profit organization, as more and more people look to the cell phone as their primary Internet device,” Boes said.

— by David Roach | BP

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