Google recently made an announcement that most good web designers have already working toward: To be successful on the web, a business needs to have a mobile-friendly, responsive website. To emphasize that, the search giant changed how it rates sites.
While desktop and laptop browsers aren't affected, Google is now prioritizing mobile-optimized websites in search results on smartphones, boosting sites that are mobile-friendly (loads quickly on devices, has responsive design, etc.) and demoting those that aren't. Sites that are used to being on the front page for a search word may be pushed several links down on the page - if not eliminated off of the front page entirely.
This seems to be a reflection of how people are increasingly doing their searches for information - with their smartphones. According to the latest statistics by comScore, 184 million people now own smartphones, and Google Search is the fourth most popular app used on those phones (51.5 percent, behind Facebook, YouTube and GooglePlay).
"Theres a shock [to the news], and small-business owners are very nervous - especially the ones that depend on search; i.e., restaurants [and] businesses that have spent years and years dominating Google search pages for their products and services," says Ari Zoldan, CEO of Quantum Networks. "Now they may get pushed back to the 10th space."
That doesn't mean it is time for small-business owners to panic.
"It is a game changer, but I don't think it's that bad," Zoldan allows. "Having said that, I think it's very important that small businesses start making their sites a lot more mobile friendly."
The reason for that is a Google study found that 84 percent of consumers use search engines to gather information for local purchases. If your business not on the first couple of pages, that could mean a lost sale.