Changes will only affect a site's search ranking on mobile devices – and it only applies to individual pages, not entire websites.
There’s been a lot of fear mongering in response to Google’s April 21 mobile algorithm update. Some articles have gone so far as to say if you aren’t mobile-friendly, every ounce of SEO you’ve ever put into your site is going down the proverbial toilet and you’ll never be searchable again, essentially. Nearly everyone and their dog has received a spammy e-mail warning of the mobile apocalypse and how you need to hire someone ‘immediately’ to optimize your site for mobile, lest the Google overlords erase your existence completely. We’re here to break down what exactly this mobile algorithm update entails, how to check if you’re going to be effected, and how to ensure your company makes the most of this opportunity to optimize your online experience.
First things first, what even is Mobilegeddon?
As early as January of this year, Google hinted at an impending update to their mobile search algorithm. The update to the algorithm was to place greater emphasis on users navigating easily on a mobile device. Why? Because Internet users from mobile devices have been rising sharply year after year with no sign of slowing. It has been reported that, ‘By 2020, the use of Google search by mobile users is expected to reach a whopping 68.6% leaving the desktop segment to a mere 31.4%’.
Anticipating this impending uproar, Google provided a tool that will check the responsiveness of your website in seconds. Just enter your URL into their mobile-friendly testing tool and cross your fingers. If the site is responsive, Google gives you the thumbs up. If not, they’ll tell you why.
What we consider the most important (and oft-overlooked) aspect to the update is this: changes will only affect a site’s search ranking on mobile devices – and it only applies to individual pages, not entire websites. Hear that, guys?! Your desktop based SEO ranking isn’t changing.
Does this effect me?
For those who have an older website that doesn’t format specifically for a mobile device, it's likely that your mobile traffic will have a higher bounce rate, lower time on site and lower conversion rates than site averages. This is because, as BizJournals reported, ‘Through Google’s lens, this means a poorer user experience for those who have trusted that search results will get them to the information they are looking for’. Essentially, if you use Google to search on a mobile device, they’ll make sure they get you to websites that provide a good user experience on your smaller screen.
This mobile friendly “signal” is only one of many different signals that Google uses to rank pages. It may be that if you have the right page for a search, then you’ll still show up regardless of you’re mobile friendliness - high-quality content could rank well, even if it’s not mobile friendly. Or course, it also could not rank well. And no, no one is getting de-listed.
How do I become mobile friendly?
There are some obvious new restrictions, and some that aren’t so obvious: you cannot, for example, use software that isn’t commonly found on mobile devices, such as Adobe Flash. You cannot display text that can’t be read without being zoomed, cannot force users to scroll horizontally, and you need to ensure there’s adequate space between links. Factors causing you to fail the Google mobile-friendly test also include a mobile viewport that is not set and content that is wider than the screen.
Before embarking on a plan to become more mobile friendly, we suggest asking yourself these questions:
- Does our site get many mobile visitors?
- How does our current site look on a smartphone?
- What are our competitors doing?
After determining where you stand in terms of your current mobile web presence, we recommend formulating a mobile-update plan based on the following guidelines:
- Take Google’s mobile-friendly test results for your URL into serious consideration
- Update to responsive design
- Insure a fast and secure connection for users
- Authenticate Google Webmaster
- Implement Google analytics to track new progress!
As a digital agency, we want to develop the best products for our clients and we know that providing a responsive and mobile friendly experience to consumers will aid greatly in effectively communicate their messages - which is why it is something we heavily advocate to all current and future clients.
All in all,
However big this update ultimately ends up being (which will take months to fully determine), Google's push toward mobile-friendly design and their clear public stance on this issue strongly signal that mobile-friendly sites are going to have a big advantage over time. Google is simply nudging the market in a direction we’ve all been heading for quite some time. Even though the announcement triggered the kind of mad scramble reminiscent of the run-up to the Y2K remediation in the 1990s, this ultimately shouldn’t be a surprise.
SearchEngineLand really put it best: ‘If you’ve not been sensing and responding to the marketplace and making your content accessible to a mobile world all along, you should stop worrying about Google. Instead, start challenging yourself to keep pace with the changing world around you. Google is simply offering you a little encouragement’.
Bridget VanWart is Div1's newest addition, joining the team after graduating with a Bachelor of Business Administration from the University of New Brunswick. When she's not serving as Div1's client liaison and administrative assistant, she can be found Instagramming pretty things she stumbles upon around the city.
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