Since the rise in popularity of smart mobile devices, many website owners have made big changes to accommodate mobile users. At present, most users prefer to get connected using their tablets and smartphones and an estimate of 60% of all connections – specifically Google searches – go through these devices.
Google is the primary search engine used around the world. Google has made several updates in their algorithm to make the search results more relevant and for users to find what they are looking for easily. For many websites owners and internet marketers, Google updates are challenges that need to be resolved in order to be ranked or to preserve their rankings in the worldwide searches. Google’s Panda and Penguin updates have shaken the search engine world with many changes that affect how websites are ranked.
The Lowdown On the New Update
When smart devices became the popular gadget of choice for many internet users, many websites were appropriately optimised for mobile use with responsive web design (which makes websites viewable and accessible across different platforms). Although many websites have taken the step in making their sites “mobile accessible” there are still a large number of sites that are not in tune with the changes.
For many years, Google lacked clear direction about how exactly mobile usage and access factored into their search results, but for the last few months Google has turned their attention to mobile engagement. Google sent out fair warnings to all Webmaster Tools users regarding mobile usability issues on their websites, and then a post from Google’s Webmaster Blog dropped the hammer.
Now Google is rolling out another major update and many website owners have it coming. A new mobile-friendly Google algorithm update will be rolled out on the 21st of April, 2015. This new update will mean that Google will favor websites that are mobile-friendly over non mobile-friendly sites. Zineb Ait Bahajji of Google’s Webmaster team stated that the impact of this upcoming update will be far more massive as compared to the Google Panda and Penguin updates. If you’re a website owner, a digital marketer or working with an SEO company, this is a very heavy statement that you need to digest. Surely, you have experienced some massive headaches in the past thanks to Panda and Penguin. Well, now you’ve got to get ready for this next blow.
Google has already made some small changes in relation to mobile accessibility when they launched mobile-friendly labels in many search results in Google. When you use your mobile device when doing searches, you will see a smartphone icon or a “mobile-friendly” label beside the website link. So it is pretty obvious if a website is mobile-friendly or not just by checking on the said labels.
How Will It Affect Your Ranking Or Your Business?
It’s too hard to say how the update will affect your ranking or your business until the update has officially rolled out. If your website is already mobile-friendly, you don’t have to worry. Your search ranking may not suffer as compared to non mobile-friendly sites. If your website is not mobile-friendly, you should take the necessary steps to make the changes before April 21st or your search ranking will surely go down and your business may suffer as a result.
Checking If Your Website Is Mobile-Friendly
There are several ways to find out if your website is mobile-friendly.
1. Webmaster Tools
As mentioned earlier, Google has been sending out warnings on all affected websites, but if you don’t have Webmaster Tools you won’t get a warning. If you already have an active Google account, you can go to Webmaster Tools to verify.
2. Mobile-Friendly Test
Just go to this link and copy-paste your domain and a result will show if your site is mobile-friendly or not.
3. Using Your Mobile Phone
Do a mobile Google search of your site using your mobile phone, if there is a smartphone icon or a mobile-friendly label on your site’s search results, then you’re all good.
Preparing For The New Algorithm
Webmaster Trend analyst Gary Illyes shared a few details about the new algorithm roll out. He stated that:
- Responsive design will not factor in the rankings.
- Tablets will not be affected by the new update.
- A website’s mobile-friendliness will be determined at the page level and not on a site level.
If you have not implemented mobile-friendly changes to your website, take cues on the points mentioned above. Make sure that your website’s mobile version is fully functional and active. Responsive designs are, by default, what most websites are going for. If you can afford it, implement a separate mobile version of your website. Make sure the Google bots can crawl to your website. If the bots can’t find it, your website might as well not even be there, so make sure your IT department is 100% sure about this.
Lastly, even if your website passes the mobile-friendly test, test that every page of your website will be easy to navigate using any mobile device.
The current trends are focusing on an increasing mobile audience in the years to come. Now is the time to make the changes so that you will not get left behind and ensure your visibility in the long run.