If you’re still on the fence about upgrading your website to be mobile-friendly, you’re already behind your competition. It’s been eight months since Google announced in April that it would be tweaking its search algorithm to prioritize websites that are mobile-friendly, yet many haven’t made the leap – which is concerning. For them.

Updating your website can be expensive, I get it. But nothing else you do to stand out in search matters until you take care of this one (huge) thing.

This is not a drill

In case you’re thinking this is much ado about nothing, and you don’t have to worry about it, let’s clear that notion right up.

In July, not quite two months after the change, the Wall Street Journal cited a report by Adobe which found that “traffic to non-mobile-friendly websites from Google mobile searches fell 12% in the two months after the changes took effect April 21, relative to mobile-friendly sites.” A second report noted in the WSJ article, this one by Stone Temple Consulting, stated “non-mobile-friendly sites fell in Google search rankings, while mobile-friendly sites gained.”

And just in case you need further proof, a study from Searchmetrics found that websites which committed a list of Google “misdemeanors” were exiled from search rankings immediately after the change was implemented. According to the study, the following practices have been, and continue to be, penalized by the mighty search giant:

  • “Text is too small and hard for mobile users to read”
  • “The links are too close together and hard for digits to navigate”
  • “Mobile display area has not been set”
  • “Content is wider than the screen”

These are just some of the issues that crop up with non-mobile-friendly sites. If yours is one of them, here are your options for joining the mobile-friendly rank(ing)s:

  1. Responsive Web Design (RWD). RWD sites resize the elements of your website so they’ll fit on any device, which is a nice trick. It can also be pretty affordable depending on your approach, as many DIY web design platforms include responsive mobile sites as an option. There are a few caveats, however. Blogpros cautions that third-party “quick” solutions only offer “the most basic level of mobile functionality” and won’t offer the same level of “SEO potency.”

But if hiring a developer to create a responsive site from the ground up isn’t in the budget right now, third-party RWD builders at least put you on Google’s radar.

  1. Adaptive Web Design (AWD). Another issue with RWD is the potential lag in page load times due to large components (like images big enough to look good on a desktop monitor) having to be loaded and then shrunk accordingly for smaller devices. This is because these changes happen on the device side. Adaptive sites solve this problem by keeping media and code on the server side – only sending the proper components for the device at hand each time. This speeds things up considerably. Sites like Amazon use it to offer their “full site” experience to mobile users.
  2. Dedicated mobile site (m.dot). If you want a great looking mobile experience “quickly and at a fairly low cost,” according to Mobify, this is the way to go. Because there don’t have to be considerations for desktop items, everything is optimized for the mobile experience, and that’s pretty sweet. But of course, there are drawbacks as well – like having to manage two sites instead of one. And the potential lag time of the redirect to the mobile version.

It’s up to you which option you think will work best for your business. Google recommends responsive design, but that doesn’t mean you have to choose it. They’ll love you as long as you choose SOMETHING to become mobile-friendly. It could be the start of a beautiful friendship.