Unless you’ve been living under a rock for the last couple of weeks, you’re likely well aware of “Mobilegeddon” or “the Mobile-topia”, the impending Google algorithm update that is set for release on April 21, 2015. This update will increase the importance of a website’s ‘mobile-friendliness’ as a ranking factor, and it has some webmasters trembling.
Why you should care about this release
Google officials confirmed this week that while desktop rankings won’t be affected, websites that don’t hit the mark for mobile-friendliness will see a significant difference between desktop and mobile SERPs. This is big news for any webmaster who wants to keep their share of traffic from the 21 million mobile handsets in Australia. Think this may not apply to your business? Think again. Regardless of industry, roughly 30% of website traffic comes from mobile devices. Here’s what else you need to know:
- It’s already started – While the actual release isn’t until April 21, 2015, some sites are already feeling the effects. Keep an eye on traffic to see if yours is one of them and don’t waste time getting it up to speed.
- Real talk – This algorithm runs in real-time, which means that you’ll benefit right away if you have a mobile responsive website.
- It’s a mammoth of an update – According to Search Engine Land, Zineb Ait Bahajji of Google’s Webmaster Trends team has been quoted saying that this update has the potential to affect sites even more than Panda and Penguin.
- Singled out – This update assesses websites on a page-by-page basis, so if only certain pages on your site are mobile friendly, those are the only ones that will benefit.
- Labels, labels, labels – Once this update is released, sites that are categorised as “mobile-friendly” will be labelled as such in Google searches, allowing users to clearly see and select which sites are going to be the easiest to use from their smartphones, tablets, and (of course) phablets.
How can you make sure your site is mobile-ready?
Being mobile friendly doesn’t necessarily mean the same for every site. There are different ways to have your site optimised for the ever-increasing mobile traffic most businesses are experiencing. The most talked-about way to create a website that provides a good desktop, mobile, and tablet experience is to implement a responsive design, but there are other options depending on the needs of your customers and the product or service you offer. Does your site scrub up to the high standards Google has set to create a better search experience for millions of mobile users? If you’re not sure, try using this handy tool offered by Google to help you check.
Get that money
Instead of fearing the mysterious algorithms of the big G, look at the silver lining: Now is the best time to get a mobile audit underway for your site. Better still, it’s the perfect time to make a business case to your C-suite executives in order to secure extra budget and do the job properly. Your case: Not allocating the appropriate resources for this update means your business risks losing valuable traffic from mobile users. For example, if 50% of your website traffic comes from mobile devices, ignoring this important algorithm update means you’re putting quite a bit of business on the line.
Consider what it means to be really mobile friendly
Being mobile friendly sounds great, but do you really fit the bill? Sure, everything on your site will work when loaded on a handheld device, it just might not adapt well to the smaller screen size. Good enough, right? Not really. How many times have you been browsing on your smartphone only to come across a website with microscopic text or a popup box with a close button that is un-tappable? You know how frustrating it is when you just want to read through that great recipe or browse for your next holiday destination, so you can bet it’s frustrating for your customers, too. If you have a website, you want as much consistent and valuable traffic as possible, and to do that you need high-quality content that makes people trust your authority and want to read about your product. Make it easy for them and test your site to ensure it is 100% mobile friendly, regardless of screen size.
Take a good look, hard at your mobile user experience
Have you ever been browsing a site and noticed its URL contained “.m”? Chances are that company has opted for an experience mobile site. This is a completely separate site design that suppresses and strips down many of the features found on the desktop site to accommodate smaller devices. This option is often highly preferable to mobile consumers, as the information your typical mobile user is looking for will be easier to find – say, store hours and locations – and navigational elements are bigger for smaller screens. With this new release, we have to ask: Have these basic mobile sites already had their time in the sun? Most web developers are opting for an alternative solution to mobile traffic, which is partly due to the SEO problems of redirecting mobile users to the m. site, and because the extra man power to maintain an entirely separate website is just plain inefficient. If you’re starting from scratch and want to create a mobile site for your users, stick to the mantra of ‘one site to rule them all’ and consider adaptive and responsive sites.
Mobile’s two favourite words: adaptive and responsive
Behind-the-scenes details of adaptive and responsive website designs can get pretty techie, though it’s helpful to note that both approaches have the same goal: Build a website that works perfectly on every screen size and every device. An adaptive site has pre-set specifications for how the elements of your site should look depending on the particular screen size and device in use. Developers can work with these guidelines to build a website that will automatically adjust to suit a desktop, laptop, tablet, or other mobile device, and the quality of your site will remain the same throughout. Responsive web design is a little more fluid. While there are no set dimensions for screen sizes or devices, there is some clever coding that works with percentages and rules that will allow any device to display your websites’ text and images perfectly on any device. The primary advantage of these two web design approaches is the massive time savings (and we all know time is money), as managing one site that works across all platforms is obviously more efficient than building and maintain a completely separate mobile site. This is particularly valuable when the great content and hard-earned links from your SEO outreach send influential ranking signals back to a single site.
Before you panic, check out your site’s compatibility – you may be just fine. If not, you can follow these three steps Search Engine Land has laid out to prepare. Have an app? It’s also wise to get your developer to check out all deep links in your app using Google’s App Indexing API. As always, if your ready to improve your SEO rankings and need help preparing for this gargantuan update, the experts at Croud Australia are ready to assist.