If your salon has a website, you could be in for a big shock. Google is changing the rules (again) on how it ranks websites in its search results. If your site doesn’t fit the new regime, you could find your site dropping out of view, unless you take urgent action.
Because as of this week, Google will begin demoting websites that aren’t “mobile responsive.”
The company announced its impending changes back in February, giving webmasters nearly two months and plenty of information to make the changes necessary to keep their sites from disappearing from mobile search results. But the update is still expected to cause a major ranking shake-up. It has even been nicknamed “Mobile-geddon” because of how “apocalyptic” it could be for millions of websites, according to Director of Online at Worldwide Salon Marketing, George Slater.
“Come April 21, a lot of small businesses are going to be really surprised that the number of visitors to their websites has dropped significantly. This is going to affect millions of sites on the web,” he says.
Businesses that depend on people finding them through localised search — like, if someone typed “hair salon Hawthorn,” into Google on their phone — could see a decrease in foot traffic as a result of this update, says Mr Slater.
“Google has always been about relevancy, and content is king,” he says. “But that’s changing. Yes, they’re saying content is still important, but user experience is just as important. It’s not enough to have good content — if people come to your site and the content is there but it’s not readable, that’s not good.”
“I’m worried about it, a lot,” says one salon owner whose website is featured prominently at the top of Google searches. Thanks to her website’s position on the first page Google – which has 80% of the world’s search business – customers were finding her more and more easily. And she should be worried. A quick check of her website on a mobile phone and the problem was obvious. Because Google is about to change the way it ‘rates’ websites in search results, her high-ranking site risked being downgraded – ‘sandboxed’, in geek terms – relegated to back pages where nobody will find it.
The problem: Her site was built back when smart-phones had nowhere near the market penetration they now enjoy. Recent studies indicate that people are now using their smart phones – iPhones and Android devices – for fully 60% of all online searches.
And on a smart phone, her website was just about unreadable; the full-sized, detailed, multi-page site, crammed into a tiny phone screen made it almost impossible for searchers to find relevant information…like her phone number. Why is that important? Because other studies show that of all people searching for a local business like a hair or beauty salon on a smart phone, more than 60% are doing so because they want to buy something or book an appointment…now.
According to George Slater, “The people at Google aren’t stupid. They know that smart phones are taking over the world. They also know that if a Google search on a smart phone doesn’t take the searcher to a website that’s easy to read, Google’s own relevance in a mobile world will diminish.
“So the folks at Google are checking websites that appear in the top three pages of its search rankings. If those sites aren’t ‘mobile responsive’, the sites will be downgraded. And the salon will lose valuable business before the problem can be fixed, and more valuable time before the site can climb back up the search listings.”
In other words, your website could disappear from search rankings completely. And for many salon owners, like Lesley, that could be disastrous for business.
How to check your site
It’s easy to check if your site is mobile responsive. Just grab your smart phone and in its web browser, type in the address of your site. If all you get is the whole website, with all its lovely graphics and photos, and you have to scroll around that little screen just to find your phone number…you’re in trouble. Imagine it from your prospective customer’s point of view; all she wants to do is find a salon in her area that she can call and book an appointment for a cut and colour, or a facial, or some waxing, and you’re making it difficult for her. So she hits the back button, and finds another salon that makes it easy for her to do business there and then.
What to do
Call your web designer NOW. If he or she can’t (or won’t) help you – or can’t be located/doesn’t respond, which is often the case for salons who had their websites built in some cases years ago – call us at Worldwide Salon Marketing on 08 9443 9327.
WSM builds, hosts and maintains websites for hundreds of salons, spas, medispas and wellness clinics all over the world – and every single one of them is ‘mobile ready’.