Google wants to help small businesses make their websites work better on mobile.
The company is rolling out a new diagnostic tool to help them figure out how to make their sites faster and easier to use on smartphones, Google’s managing director of small-to-medium business sales for the Americas, Yong Su, tells Business Insider.
The tool, called Test My Site with Google, launches in May, and will look pretty similar to other free tests that the company offers. But Su says that the team built this one specifically for small business site owners who might not be very tech savvy.
Small businesses will just enter their website URL to get a short diagnostic check. Google will them tell them specific reasons why their site isn’t mobile friendly and custom tips on how to improve. For example, if a business’s website is slow, Google will share tips for how to improve speed, as well as data that shows that why fixing the problem is important. Su cites a study that says that increase of one second in load time leads to an 11% decrease in page views, a 7% decrease in conversions, and a 16% decrease in satisfaction.
This news comes almost exactly one year after Google released a series of updates that started ranking mobile-friendly websites higher in search results. Insiders called that first push “Mobilegeddon” because of the toll it would take on businesses — particularly small businesses — that didn’t make their sites easier to use on smartphones (through techniques like using large text, resizing pages, having well-spaced links, etc).
Google reasoned that because more than half of its searches come from mobile, it wanted to make sure that consumers had the best experience possible when they clicked on a mobile link.
But the change caused traffic to non-mobile-friendly websites to plunge 12% and smaller companies were hit the hardest, according to an Adobe study in July 2015. In September, only 24.4% of small businesses had a mobile-optimised site, according to research from RBC Capital.
Sites that lost their organic traffic often made up for it by buying more mobile-search ads, according to Adobe’s study.
That might sound like it would be good for Google, but there’s one hitch: If businesses are buying mobile ads but their mobile sites still suck, then people probably aren’t going to stay on their sites or buy anything, so the business ultimately might decide that buying ads is useless.
“We want to make sure that Google is doing our part to help advertisers make the most of it,” Su says.
He explained that when it helped about a dozen of its small business advertisers improve their mobile experience, it caused twice as many “conversions” (meaning a purchase, sign-up, registration, or other action that would count as a success for that business).
Overall, Google says that it found an influx of 13% more mobile-friendly sites in total search results since its updates last spring (though it has no data on small business sites specifically).
News of Google’s new tool for small businesses comes right before Facebook’s developers conference next week, when the social network is expected to announce new tools for businesses to work with its messaging platform.
Over the last year, Facebook’s refrain has been that small businesses don’t necessarily need their own websites because they can use Facebook’s Pages feature as their main web presence. Instead of building a website or dedicated mobile app, companies can put all their information on Facebook for free, it says.
As you’d expect, Su doesn’t believe that just having a Facebook Page is enough.
“We feel that it’s important for small businesses to have a presence that reflects the true nature of the business, with full flexibility and customisation, and however they want to program it themselves for the end user,” he says when asked about Facebook’s stance.
“We don’t think it’s an either/or. Small businesses should take advantage of lots of different ways to represent themselves on the web so they can be found. We still think that having a mobile website — a full destination site where they have control, flexibility, and lots of features — is an important experience that small businesses should provide for the end users.”
Su admits that often “small businesses aren’t well equipped to make sure that consumers have a good experience,” so Google will also recommend website building partners like Wix and Weebly that can help with mobile site creation if they don’t have their own tools. The company says that there will be “some unique offers” but that those partners and others won’t be paying to be recommended.