It’s not often that Google gives us advance notice of a major algorithm update, so their announcement in February sent a pretty clear signal that its mobile-friendly update was one to prepare for. While the update only affects searches from mobile devices, statistics reveal that more and more people are using mobile devices to research and finalize their buying decisions, so updating your site to be user-friendly on mobile devices should be on your agenda regardless of the update.
What is the update looking for?
In our recent blog post, we discussed some of the criteria that is evaluated when determining whether a site is mobile-friendly. The availability of a mobile-friendly display mode is one. While best practices (and Google’s own recommendations) favor responsive design, any approach to mobile-friendly display is preferable to none. Usability factors come into play as well. Is the text large enough to read? Are links well-located (links that are too close together can be difficult to click or differentiate from one another). Does the site use specialized software that is not widely available to mobile devices (such as Flash)? Google released a tool that allows you to evaluate your site the same way it does, and will flag any issues that prevent your site from being considered mobile-friendly.
It’s important to note in order for your site to be considered mobile-friendly in terms of this update, you’ll need to clear all the criteria.
What if I’m not ready?
Algorithm changes are anxious events, especially when the impact is swift and significant – evidence of this can be seen in this update’s “Mobilegeddon” nickname. Many times, it can take months or even longer to recover from an algorithm’s adjustments. Fortunately, in this case, even if your site is not mobile-ready when Google does its initial scan for the roll-out, there’s no need to panic. Once you update your site, Google will note the changes the next time it does a crawl. In order to speed things along, you can use Fetch as Google with Submit to Index to ask Google to recrawl your URLs.
Of course, time is still critical – because of the growing importance of mobile searches, any delay in updating your site could cost you valuable traffic.
How does this affect results?
As with every algorithm update, the changes are nuanced. Sites that aren’t mobile friendly won’t automatically be penalized, and those that are won’t immediately rocket to the top of the rankings. Mobile-friendliness is just one of the many factors that are evaluated when rankings are determined. A non-mobile-friendly site with excellent content and other strong signals can still outrank a mobile-friendly site that offers a poorer experience overall. In the end, Google wants to deliver the most relevant results to its users, even if it means sending a mobile user to a site that isn’t optimized for the mobile experience.
It’s also important to note that this rollout is expected to take a week to complete, so the impact of the update is not likely to be visible for at least that long.
How will this impact my site?
Much depends on how much of your traffic comes from mobile users. If you currently rely heavily on mobile traffic, and your site isn’t optimized, you could see a dip in your rankings, especially if your competitors offer a better mobile experience. Again, it’s important to remember that even if you don’t rely on mobile traffic at the moment, the shift towards mobile is undeniable, and chances are it will begin to play a more important role in your site’s profitability in the near future.
Of course, this update isn’t the only reason to make sure your site complies with Google’s guidelines. Optimizing your site for mobile translates to a better user experience, and could translate to improved conversions. After all, that’s why Google has rolled out this update in the first place: mobile users expect a mobile-friendly experience from the sites they do business with.
If you’re not sure if your site is mobile friendly, or if you need help resolving some of the issues identified by Google’s mobile-friendly test, give us a call. We can help identify the best strategy for optimizing your site for both search engines and users.
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