Is Your Dental Practice Website Mobile-Friendly?

Like many of you, I work with, and rely on, trusted marketing and web support vendors to help me keep my website up-to-date and relevant. My interest is in making sure it’s valuable to my clients, while their focus is on making sure I stay on good terms with “the World According to Google”.

Which leads to the reason behind the question, “Is your dental practice website mobile-friendly?”, and why it matters.

Earlier this year, Google announced it was making a change to its search algorithms, which would begin to factor in a website’s “mobile-friendliness” as a ranking signal – meaning that those sites which weren’t optimized for smartphones’ smaller screens would see their ranks downgraded as a result.

The reason behind the change: mobile search. The numbers on smartphone use worldwide are staggering. In 2015, there will be over 1.91 billion smartphone users across the globe. By 2018, over one-third of consumers worldwide will use smartphones. (Source: eMarketer)

According to Google, “this change will affect mobile searches in all languages worldwide, and will have a significant impact in Google Search results. Users will find it easier to get relevant, high-quality search results optimized for their devices.”

So what is mobile-friendly? According to Google, in order for a site to be considered mobile-friendly, its text has to be readable without tapping and zooming, its tap targets need to be spaced out appropriately, and the page needs to avoid unplayable content or horizontal scrolling. In other words, the site simply needs to be easily usable from a mobile device.

(To find out if your site is mobile friendly, simply click on this link and type in your domain name.)

If a site is determined to not be mobile-friendly, Google warns that “there may be a significant decrease in mobile traffic from Google Search.” But once the changes are made, Google will automatically re-process the site’s pages.

In other words, if your practice or business website is not set up to be 'mobile-friendly', potential new patients will find it harder and harder to find you if they are searching on a smart device, which they probably are.

To help you make sure your website is ready for this change, and to understand what’s going on, we've put together, with some help from Google, the following frequently asked questions.

10 FAQ’s about Google’s New Mobile-Friendly Search Guidelines

1. Will desktop and/or tablet ranking also be affected by this change?

No, this update has no effect on searches from tablets or desktops. It affects searches from mobile devices across all languages and locations.

2. Is it a page-level or site-level mobile ranking boost?

It’s a page-level change. For instance, if ten of your site’s pages are mobile-friendly, but the rest of your pages aren’t, only the ten mobile-friendly pages can be positively impacted.

3. How do I know if Google thinks a page on my site is mobile-friendly?

Individual pages can be tested for “mobile-friendliness” using the Mobile-Friendly Test.


4. I have a great mobile site, but the Mobile-Friendly Test tells me that my pages aren't mobile-friendly. Why?

The most common reason why a mobile page fails the Mobile-Friendly Test is that Googlebot for smartphones is blocked from crawling resources, like CSS and JavaScript, that are crucial for understanding the page’s mobile-friendliness. Google therefore recommend that site owners allow Googlebot to crawl all resources for a page (including CSS, JavaScript, and images), so that we can properly render, index, and in this case, assess whether the page is mobile-friendly.

Note: if what you just read makes no sense to you, and to most people it won’t, ask the person who designed your site.

5. What if I link to a site that’s not mobile-friendly?

Your page can still be “mobile-friendly” even if it links to a page that’s not mobile-friendly, such as a page designed for larger screens, like desktops. It’s not the best experience for mobile visitors to go from a mobile-friendly page to a desktop-only page, but hopefully as more sites become mobile-friendly, this will become less of a problem.

6. Will my site / page disappear on mobile search results if it's not mobile-friendly?

While the mobile-friendly change is important, we still use a variety of signals to rank search results. The intent of the search query is still a very strong signal -- so even if a page with high quality content is not mobile-friendly, it could still rank high if it has great content for the query.

7. What if my audience is desktop only? Then there’s no reason to have a mobile site, right?

Not exactly. Statistics show that more people are going “mobile only” -- either because they never had a desktop or because they won’t replace their existing desktop. Additionally, a non-mobile-friendly site may not see many mobile visitors precisely for that reason.

8. Will this change affect my desktop traffic?

No. This change will affect mobile searches in all languages worldwide.

9. How can I make my site mobile-friendly?

Get started with the guide to mobile-friendly sites to build your mobile-friendly site.

10. My website is already mobile-friendly. Do I need to take any action?

If you already have a mobile-friendly site, ask your web developer to:

How many sites are not mobile-friendly?

If your site is not mobile friendly, don’t feel bad, you’re in good company. A recent survey by Boulder Marketing Technology, found that 44% of Fortune 500 websites failed the test!

So did mine, by the way. I first heard about Google’s new mobile-friendly guidelines and recommendations in a conversation with my marketing and web consultant, Jill Townsend. It might sound familiar to you…

Jill: “Hey Amy, I just wanted to let you know I’ve run your website through Google’s mobile friendly test site and it didn't pass.”

Amy: “Okay, what does that mean?”

Jill: “First of all, I’m not too surprised or concerned. We designed your site over 4 years ago, and technology has changed a lot in that time. Mobile search wasn't anywhere near as prevalent then as it is today. So I've checked, and we can have a web developer make some fairly minor revisions, or we can start over. I think the revisions would be just fine.”

Amy: “How much will it cost?”

Jill: “About $$$.”

Amy: “Okay, I’ll put it in the budget.

Jill: “Great!”

In other words, I’m practicing what I preach to my dental clients:

  • You must have a website.
  • You must make sure it is professional, meets HIPAA guidelines, and represents you and your practice well.
  • And now… you must make sure it is as easy as possible for your patients to find you, however they are searching (ie, it must be mobile-friendly).

For more information on this topic, simply Google “mobile friendly” and go from there, or talk to the people who designed or host your website. If your site is more than 5 years old, it probably will not pass. If that’s the case, don’t worry, just act. Meeting Google’s new guidelines should not be too difficult or expensive, even if you have to start over.