No one has to tell you that mobile is one of the most important concepts in the digital landscape. Americans now spend 60 percent of their digital media time on mobile, according to comScore, an Internet analytics company.

If that's not enough of an incentive to persuade you to create a mobile-friendly website, consider this: Starting April 21, Google will again update its search engine algorithm.

This time, it plans to give higher preference to websites with mobile-friendly site elements than those sites that don't. 

Big Changes Ahead

According to the official Webmaster blog, the changes will focus on features related to website appearance, including mobile-friendly element tags and content that addresses screen spacing concerns. The change is designed for user experience — the goal is to make it easier for users “to get relevant, high quality search results that are optimized for their devices.”

Google will also use more information from indexed apps as a ranking factor in search results. 

This means an increased use of app indexing, a series of element tags in apps listed in Google Play and connected to Google Webmaster. App developers have to install tags <intent filter>, <action>, and <data> into the app code. 

The Google search engine algorithm would search for these tags, similar to the way it seeks semantic search identifiers. Then it would associate the app in a query result.

The changes are probably the most significant in a progression of algorithm updates for the Internet behemoth.

Steady Stream

Most marketers are familiar with the names of annual Google changes over the past four years. 

Panda, Penguin, Hummingbird and Pigeon have each introduced changes that address conversational speech for voice-activated queries, black hat links and local search queries. Once again, the proposed changes are setting the marketing community abuzz, given Google’s dominance in the search engine market. 

The changes also reflect how consumers are relying on search while on the go. Last August, Yahoo released a report that shows two significant things.

  1. More consumers will search on mobile devices than their PCs by the end of 2015. 
  2. Many consumers are using their smartphones while at home.

Combine those two facts with an eMarketer report regarding the high trust people place in search engine results, and the conclusions regarding the importance of mobile are clear.

There are a few ways that companies can begin to position its websites with better features for mobile search queries.

What Can You Do?

Google offers a tool that can test websites for mobile compatibility. Users submit a URL to the tool, which scans the site and indicates a pass or fail result.  The tool notes a few potential reasons for a fail and offers suggestions depending on the site being a CMS, developer managed, or a DIY website. 

In addition, businesses should:

  • Examine how their digital properties are deployed to mobile devices. Is there a dedicated mobile site or is the site responsive? There are a number of debates about responsive sites being used for mobile access, but all firms should look at the how the pros and cons fit for their organization.

  • Look at the load speed of their sites. This means examining how CSS, JavaScript and image files are loaded within the page. Page load reports in Google Analytics can monitor load concerns within a site, while page load tests such as Pingdom and Yottaa can highlight server requests that extend the load time.

April 15 is a tax deadline in the United States, but for the world of digital marketing, April 21 is at least as important. It's the deadline to remove any doubts about developing a mobile-friendly website.