The mobile algorithm update we’ve all been expecting (and those unprepared have been fearing) is finally upon us. We take a look at why Google have decided to implement this change, what it entails, how you risk being penalised, how to prepare, monitor and avoid issues, what the potential positive outcomes could be and finally, how to make your site mobile-friendly.
Mobile-Friendly Sites To Rank Better In Search
Google have announced that on April 21st 2015, mobile ranking factors will come into play. For some, this update may seem daunting and we’ve even heard the terms ‘Mobocalypse’ or ‘Mobilegeddon’ thrown around. However, it’s not all doom and gloom and if you prepare correctly this can actually be a very positive step forward - your site will not only be labelled as ‘mobile-friendly’, but could also help you rank higher.
So What Does This Update Entail?
We’ve heard grumblings that this change will have more of an impact than Penguin or Panda! Fundamentally, we believe this algorithm is designed to give a boost to mobile-friendly pages in both desktop and mobile search results. This means that mobile devices will no longer display the most popular, organic results; instead, the most popular ‘mobile-friendly’ sites will rank higher.
One interesting point to note is that it won’t judge your site as a whole, but it will analyse each page of your site on an individual basis. This means you don’t have to optimise your whole site for mobile, you have to focus on the pages you want to rank (although we suggest the whole site should be fully optimised as most mobile-friendly sites are).
We’ve also learnt that Google news, images and videos are unlikely to be affected by the changes; however, adwords quality scores can be affected. So if your site is not mobile-friendly you may get a lower quality score and have to pay a higher CPC (cost-per-click) or appear lower down in the results; even for desktop searches.
What is a Mobile-Friendly Site?
Put simply, a mobile-friendly site is any website that offers a good user experience on a smartphone or tablet. The user experience on a mobile phone is determined by the way it displays on the device, how it navigates and how long the load times are.
When Do I Have To Optimise My Site?
The official date is April 21st and Google have stated that it will take about a week to fully role out. Importantly this algorithm runs in real time, so you could theoretically make your site mobile-friendly on the day and not be penalised.
What Are The Consequences of Not Making Your Site Mobile-Friendly?
For most of us, a decent mobile UX is and has been mandatory for a while now. This is not only because we predicted such an update, but due to the ever growing importance of mobile technology, and in particular mobile search. Gone are the days when mobile would just trickle through a few conversions or sales; now it can be as important, if not more important than desktop.
If you don’t have a mobile-friendly site by the time this algorithm change is fully implemented the following a very real possibilities:
- Miss the chance to improve your mobile ranking
- Your site could actually fall lower down in the rankings
- Loss of mobile traffic
- Lower conversion rate (this is ever present and could affect you regardless of the update)
- Higher bounce rates
Will Small Businesses & Startups Be Affected By The Mobile-Friendly Update?
The answer to this question all depends on the amount of traffic a business gets via mobile. If it’s a lot, then it is crucial you optimise; if not, then is there an opportunity to gain more traffic?
We have mentioned that Google will not be judging the whole site on its own. This being the case you should look at what pages your users are ‘landing’ on. Is your traffic entering on the homepage or a specific page, perhaps it’s a location specific page. If it is location specific and you do not have a mobile-friendly site, you could lose out on traffic as other mobile optimised pages may rank above you (despite not being as specific to that location).
Why Are Google Releasing A Mobile-Friendly Update?
There are two main reasons why Google are updating their mobile algorithm.
Firstly, it benefits Google’s mobile phone business. Google are definitely driving the smart phone revolution. They are the world’s largest mobile operating system provider with their Android platform. Furthermore, contrary to popular belief, they do in fact have the biggest app store (not apple).
The other main reason is that primarily, they want to be the best search engine they can be. Surfacing mobile-friendly sites on a mobile or tablet makes sense. It improves the users experience and should in theory give them better results. Plus, if it forces more sites to conform and make their site mobile friendly, users will have better experiences when surfing.
Companies That Do Mobile Optimisation Well:
Kaptur is the very latest property information and report management technology. By nature the product utilises tablet technology so it would make sense for the site to be mobile optimised.
Isuperdrive is the European luxury and supercar rental service, operating in London, UK and Europe. They made sure they were mobile-friendly early on as they realised the importance. For them the whole site was important, not just the homepage; often customers would enter the site going straight to a car page such as the Lamborghini Aventador car page.
And of course we couldn't not mention www.netleadz.co.uk – we made sure our site was fully responsive and mobile optimised a while back.
How To Test If Your Site Is Mobile-Friendly
You may be wondering if your site is mobile-friendly and many of you may have no idea at all. Well there are ways to test. A basic way to approach it is to see whether there is a ‘Mobile-Friendly’ label visible in the search results on a mobile phone. This however, does not tell the full story and may not address the whole of your site.
We would suggest a bit more of an in depth test in order to evaluate your site. One of the best ways to do this is to use Google’s Mobile-Friendly Test tool. This is something we have been busy checking for our clients behind the scenes (we like to be on the ball and offer added value to our standard services).
Even if you think your site is optimised for mobile, run the checks and ensure specific elements such as images, CSS and Java script are crawlable.
How Do I Make My Site Mobile-Friendly
If you have tested your site and found it fails, you should look to make amends or improvements immediately.
Here’s what you could do:
- Firstly, (and maybe somewhat obviously) make your site mobile-friendly.
- If possible, make it responsive – This utilises the same code on the same URL and renders the display for the appropriate device (Responsive design is Google’s recommended choice).
- If you’re using a CMS such as wordpress see if you can update your theme or update the software. If you’re using a custom built website, this may be a bit trickier and probably would require some development work.
- Either way, make sure you have a backup of your site before you begin any work.
- Deep dive into Google Webmaster and locate specific issues and suggested routes to fix them. In particular, look at the crawl errors report and select ‘Smartphone’ to see if there are any problems:
- Is it accessing the right version, or is it being redirected to a non-relevant page?
- Is the content accessible?
- Are the relevant SEO elements, such as the title and meta description of each page being discovered?
- Are the site pages set up correctly (including the relevant annotations, http status, user agent detection, etc.) based on your chosen mobile site configuration?
- Make sure you monitor your traffic meticulously and keep an eye out for any changes.
We understand that some of this becomes pretty advanced and if you aren’t experienced can be terribly daunting. If you need us to check your site to see if it is mobile-friendly, or would like us to resolve any issues then feel free to give us a shout or just visit the Netleadz contact page. More info on all our Digital Marketing services can be found here.