Websites that have been hesitant about making their sites mobile friendly just got a push in that direction from the biggest source possible: Google.

In a recent announcement, the search engine giant revealed changes to the algorithm used for SEO (search engine optimization) rankings – a change that rewards those who have mobile-friendly sites and improves the use of smartphones with the web.

For those without a mobile-friendly site, the implication is clear: adapt or fall in the SEO rankings. With many small businesses counting on web business to stay afloat, it’s imperative to stay on top on the latest Google standards.

Big businesses – who in many cases now run sophisticated SEO operations – are also battling to stay at the top of rankings.

Meeting Google’s Standards

Here are a couple of issues to keep in mind, culled from SEO expert sites such as SEO Moz and Google itself.

Single URLs. Google prefers sites that use a single URL to work across all platforms – desktop, tablets and smartphones. In June 2015, Google admitted in a release that those who follow this technique are favored in search engine results. The reasons for this are various, but two of the biggest are the fact that one URL makes social sharing easier and also eliminates the slow redirects that are needed from a desktop to mobile site.

Common mistakes to avoid. On its site for web developers, Google lists common mistakes on mobile sites and advises, “Make sure your site doesn’t have any!” These include:

  • Blocked image files, JavaScript and CSS
  • Videos that will not play
  • Faulty redirects
  • Mobile-only 404s
  • Irrelevant cross-links
  • Avoid interstitials
  • Slow mobile pages

Google couldn’t make it any clearer. These are major mistakes. If you have any on your site, your first step is to address them, immediately.

The Big Picture

While keeping up with Google’s changes can be difficult, it’s important to bear in mind the goal of Google: making the Internet more user friendly.

An increasing number of people are accessing the Web via mobile. In May 2015, Google announced that the number of people who conduct Google searches on smartphones now outnumbers the people who conduct searches on desktop computers in 10 countries. Those countries include the United States and Japan.

The announcement from Jerry Dischler, vice president for product management at Google, stated that the company’s investments in mobile are driven by consumers’ “expectations for immediacy and relevance.”

“Consumers, particularly those on mobile devices, now have higher expectations than ever before – they want everything right, and they want everything right away,” Dischler wrote. “This requires that marketers answer their needs in the moment, whenever and wherever they are.”

The Practical eCommerce website looked at just one search – for “formal dresses” – and showed how, according to numbers from Google, about 61% of the searches were on mobile devices. That equates to almost a quarter million searches a month, all of which will be affected by Google’s algorithm update.

The bottom line: websites need to be mobile-friendly to reach their biggest audience and to survive in an increasingly competitive Internet business environment.