[IMGCAP(1)]Tax season is finally over. For many, now is a time for some relaxation before ramping back up for summer work.

For those that just don’t feel comfortable relaxing and are looking for something new to worry about now, you can start worrying about your website now. According to Google, on April 21, their mobile search platform will start favoring mobile-friendly websites.

What does this mean exactly? It means that websites that are not optimized for mobile and tablet devices will move down in the Google rankings and, by extension, those sites that are mobile optimized will move up.

According to a recent Google study, 72 percent of mobile users think it’s important to them that a website is mobile-friendly, and 79 percent say they will search again until they find a site that is optimized for their device if they reach a website that isn’t mobile-friendly. Google’s traffic is now 60 percent mobile, so they want to make sure their users have a good mobile experience.

Mobile-friendly websites are ones that resize automatically to fit whatever portable device they are viewed on, plus have links that are easy to click and larger text than a normal website.

As an industry group, accounting firms aren’t always the fastest to evolve with digital technology. This means that on or after April 21, firms that haven’t been looking ahead will find themselves falling behind, as websites that don’t have mobile features will be demoted in Google’s mobile ranking system.

Proactive Firms are Looking Ahead
It’s no accident that some forward-thinking firms are preparing to launch new websites this spring, as Google announced the upcoming change in February.

“Creating a mobile-friendly experience was one of the most important factors in the design of our new site,” said David Lingler of Cassady Schiller CPAs and Advisors, a leading Cincinnati-based firm that will be launching a new website this week. “Google’s announced change reaffirmed our decision to invest in providing a great website experience on any platform.”

However, many more firms are unaware of this upcoming change, and that means their website could be downgraded in the new ranking system, along with losing a significant amount of monthly visitors to their site.

Many Firms will be Playing Catch-up
“Most firms that we have talked with are unaware of the coming change and even more are unaware of how they should be preparing,” said Steve Brunson, Managing Director of Catalyst CPA Marketing and the Accounting Growth Institute. “Firms that don’t have mobile-friendly sites will see decreases in search rankings, organic traffic and potentially even new business opportunities.”

What can firms do to ensure that they aren’t negatively impacted by the changes? “You’ll need to get your site mobile friendly as soon as possible,” advised Brunson.

What Can You Do to Prepare?
First, you should check to see if your website is mobile-friendly, and if it is not, develop a plan to get mobile friendly as soon as possible. Google has created a mobile-readiness test, to determine if a website is ready for an upcoming change. All a user has to do is type in their website address. This is available at https://www.google.com/webmasters/tools/mobile-friendly/.

If your site does not pass the test, there’s no need to panic. Instead, you’ll want to take positive steps to ensure that your site isn’t being punished for long. If you have a website redevelopment planned in the next 12 months, you may want to speed up the process. Every day that your site isn’t mobile-friendly, your search results will suffer. If you don’t have a full website redesign in your near future, you can opt to give your current site a mobile overhaul, bringing it up to speed with the new mobile consumer and Google’s new mobile update at the same time.

Melissa Hennig is a public relations specialist and relationship manager at the Accounting Growth Institute and Catalyst CPA Marketing, an accounting marketing and CPA firm growth advisory firm working exclusively within the accounting industry.

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