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Mobile friendly: Is Google about to relegate your council site?

Google has just updated its search listings algorithm to reward sites that are mobile friendly and relegate those that are not. Is your council website at risk of dropping down the mobile search rankings?

North Yorkshire CC_Mobile

From 21 April 2015, a website's 'mobile friendliness' will influence if its pages are found on mobile user searches. Google will check your site to see if it has responsive design and uses mobile best practice. If you are not providing this mobile user experience then your site may not feature highly in mobile search results. 

This could be costly for private sector organisations that might lose valuable clients, but is even more damaging for councils and other public sector organisations where customers who visit their websites for vital services from mobile devices - upwards of 45% of all online visitors - could revert to more costly telephone calls and face-to-face visits if they fail to find what they are looking for online. 

Socitm recently claimed in its Better Connected 2015 report that less than 35% of council sites currently pass the mobile standard and over 30% of transactions are failing on council sites due to lack of mobile support. 

The changes that Google has implemented could result in even more pain for citizens if they can no longer find key council pages through Google Search. 

GOSS Interactive is the leading provider of websites for local government and the wider public sector. As such we are fortunate that the vast majority of our clients have been working over the last few years to roll out mobile and responsive design websites. 

Google Mobile Friendly Test GOSS
NYCC Google Mobile Friendly Test
Gloucestershire Google Mobile Friendly

To check whether your site is mobile compatible and could likely be affected by the new changes, you can use the free Google Mobile-Friendly Test tool

According to the tool, only 51% of the 433 local government websites in the UK are what it deems to be 'mobile friendly' and pass the test. 

Overall there are still over 2 in 5 council sites that are letting down mobile users and could quickly start to drop down the search result rankings. 

Aberdeenshire_Google Friendly Test
Poole_Google Mobile Friendliness
LBHF Google Mobile Friendly Test

The Google definition of 'mobile friendliness' is when a website: 

  • Avoids software that is not commonly available on mobile devices, like Flash
  • Uses text that is readable without zooming
  • Sizes content to the screen so that users do not have to scroll horizontally or zoom
  • Places links far enough apart so that the correct one can be easily tapped.

Delivering the ultimate mobile experience

With an average of 45% of visitors to public sector websites coming from mobile devices - this figure is expected to top 50% later this year - mobile is increasingly becoming the channel of choice for citizens when interacting with their local council. 

Delivering the ultimate mobile experience doesn't just ensure that citizens can find important local information, it also enables councils and other public sector organisations to increase online self-service and reduce costs that can be re-allocated to maintain vital services in this age of increasing austerity. 

GOSS Interactive makes these top 10 recommendations for delivering the ultimate mobile experience: 

  1. Test your site and its sub-pages on the Google Mobile-Friendly Test tool (or a mobile device)
  2. Look at the content on your site and reduce it as much as possible so that it is easy to read and digest on the smaller screen of a mobile device
  3. Develop or re-develop your site with responsive design techniques so that it is future-proof to be compatible with all mobile devices 
  4. If you have developed apps, then STOP NOW. Responsive design is a much better way to ensure your site is mobile friendly and it will be a lot less expensive to support in the long term
  5. Understand the services that your citizens need to access the most and make sure they are presented upfront on your site 
  6. Don't just test your content. Also test integrated features like payments and forms to ensure they work end-to-end on mobile devices. We have seen hundreds of sites and services that may work on a desktop but completely fail on a mobile. It is usually very clear that all features have not been thoroughly tested on a range of devices
  7. If you have PDF forms on your site, and most public sector organisations have loads of them, look to replace them with smart HTML forms, like those in the GOSS Forms Expert solution, to ensure they can be quickly and easily completed on a mobile. This process will also significantly reduce admin costs for your organisation
  8. Considering a new content management system? Think mobile first. With the majority of online transactions now being made on mobile devices, now is the time to design for mobile first and desktop second
  9. Use analytics to gain insight. Once your mobile site is live you should use analytics as guidance on areas for improvements. Use metrics to measure everything including content, maps viewed and if possible, calls made to a number specified for the mobile website. Then expect to change content navigation or user journeys quickly
  10. Creating a mobile website strategy can be a difficult process but getting it right can achieve great results in terms of traffic, lead generation and increased revenue. Whatever stage you are in the process, there is plenty of expert help available to support your optimisation of mobile web.  can help you tackle the above points to ensure you are getting the most out of mobile at any point in the process.