What the New Change to Google Search Means for Your Nonprofit Website

How to Find Out if You're Mobile Ready or Not

Google makes it easy to see if your website is mobile friendly. Here's one that fails the test. Fortunately, Google spells out what is wrong and has lots of info for setting it all right. Screenshot of Google result.

Is your nonprofit website mobile-friendly?

If you don’t know, or don’t think so, you had better find out by April 21st!

Google, the #1 search engine in the world, is rolling out a new algorithm – a new way they will scan the web and display search results to its users, based on how the site can be navigated on a mobile device. This is in response to their own research that has found over 50% of all Google searches occur on smartphones, tablets or other mobile devices.

Google’s point – and rightly so – is that anyone who uses its search engine “should get the most relevant and timely results, no matter if the information lives on mobile-friendly web pages or apps.” When people search using their smartphones, they want the information immediately, in an easy-to-access mobile-friendly format.

If a website is slow to load, has tiny unreadable text or a cluttered home page, the Google user will click away, looking for something else. This is especially true for younger people such as Millennials. Younger generations are driving the age of mobile. You don’t want to miss out on these donors and volunteers.

In its announcement, Google cites the fact that more and more people are using mobile devices to access the Internet and find out information – even when they have a desktop computer available to them:

“In the USA, 94% of people with smartphones search for local information on their phones. Interestingly, 77% of mobile searches occur at home or at work, places where desktop computers are likely to be present.”

The Global Web Index found that 80% of Internet users own a smartphone, and comScore reported that the majority of all time spent on digital media is via mobile apps. That’s a lot of time spent on our phones

So, what does that mean for your website?

Your nonprofit website is the hub of all your marketing and fundraising operations.

It is your most important and vital marketing real estate. It is where the majority of potential supporters will first come to find out more about you, sign up for your email list, experience your impact and make a donation.

If your site is not mobile-friendly, it could be penalized and not appear up high in Google search results. If a potential supporter or a client in need is searching for you using their phone, they may not be able to find you easily.

Not being found online when someone is looking for your programs and services will result in lost revenue and missed opportunities.

So what you can do in the face of this news?

  1. Test your website using Google’s Mobile-Friendly Test. Websites are either ranked mobile-friendly or not – there are no varying degrees. 

When you use the Mobile-Friendly Test, one of two things will happen.

  1. Your site will get a bright green “Awesome! This page is mobile-friendly” message.  Congratulations are in order!
  2. Your site will be deemed not mobile-friendly. I checked one of my favorite local nonprofits, the Beverly Historical Society, and unfortunately got this message in bright red: Not mobile-friendly (See the image above.) The mobile no-no's include too small text, links too close together, and content wider than the screen.

    If this happens to your site, Google has created a user-friendly guide to mobile-friendly sites and offers advice and tips based on whether you created the site using a content management system (CMS), an outside web developer or your own code.

    If your site isn’t mobile-friendly, I suggest talking with a web developer and moving your site to a mobile-friendly CMS platform like WordPress or SquareSpace. Network for Good has 8 tips for a mobile-friendly nonprofit website and Tech Soup Canada has a great article on how to make your nonprofit website mobile-friendly.

    More than just a mobile-friendly website, you will need a mobile strategy for your organization – check out my presentation How to Implement a Mobile Strategy for Your Nonprofit for tips and information.