How This New Algorithm Update Will Impact Your Website
As of April 21st, Google has officially rolled out their mobile-friendly algorithm update and changed the nature of search results forever, at least for searches done from mobile devices.
We’ve received dozens of calls over the past few months from people looking for a web development company to make their website responsive in wake of Google hinting towards the promotion of mobile-friendly websites in their search results. So with all of those new development costs, is it worth it to make the switch?
We definitely think so. Mobile searches will only continue to climb as people start to use their smartphones and other mobile devices for everyday searches. But don’t take our word for it, listen to what Olivier Rabenschlag, the Head of Creative Agency Development at Google, has to say about mobile in a recent interview.
“When I think about how I approach a creative problem, I think with always mobile first, and then growing outward.”
How This Update Will Affect Your SEO
This new mobile-friendly update by Google is a great opportunity for local businesses to gain some ground in their SEO campaigns for their top keywords. Mobile SEO is a relatively new concept on the world wide web so there’s not going to be many businesses out there that will take advantage of the new ranking boost. As a matter of fact, recent research shows that around 59% of all small business websites here in the United states are not mobile-compliant.
Which means that if your local business website is responsive and/or mobile-friendly, you have head start over most of your online competitors. With mobile search nearing 1/4 of all searches performed by users so far this year, this could lead to a huge surge in traffic. Especially if your industry’s top keyword results are filled with older sites.
Google Launched a Series of Resources for SMBs
In the months leading up to this new update, Google released a number of resources outlining best practices and ways to optimize your website for mobile. These resources were mostly geared towards small and medium size businesses.
Basics of a Mobile Website for Small Businesses
This is a 4-part web series on the Google Webmasters YouTube Channel about what it takes to make great mobile-friendly website for your business.
Search-Friendly Mobile Sites
This video is another great introduction to mobile-friendly design released by Google Webmasters on YouTube. It answers many important questions related to how you can get your site prepared for mobile users.
Frequently Asked Questions
Q: What happens if I launch my new mobile-friendly website after April 21st?
A: Your site may experience a temporary drop in mobile rankings while your site is not mobile-friendly, but as soon as Google crawls your website again after you go mobile-friendly, you should recover what you lost and discover your new mobile rankings.
Q: Which is better, responsive design or having a separate mobile version?
A: While Google technically supports both, we strongly recommend you make your site responsive versus creating a separate mobile version of your website (such as http://m.example.com). For one, a responsive site shares the same URL no matter which device you use. Only the layout changes depending on which device the visitor is using. Whereas a separate mobile site will have its own URL and will split the PageRank of the site. You could fix this with proper canonicalization of the URLs but we think responsive design is the best long-term solution.
Q: Does this new update affect my whole website?
A: The new mobile-friendly update only affects websites on a page-by-page basis. So if you’re strapped for cash and can’t afford to make your whole website responsive, start with making your top pages mobile-friendly and work your way down.
Q: Does Google count tablet (iPad) searches as mobile?
A: Google has stated in the past that they consider the tablet (iPad) as more of a “desktop experience” so they tend to show the desktop version of a site and/or search results when visited from a tablet device.
Q: Can a website still rank in mobile results without being mobile-friendly?
A: In short, yes. According to Google, it all depends on the intent of the user’s search query. The new update is a VERY STRONG signal, but not a replacement for good content. It’s also not the only factor Google considers when ranking a website. So if there is a page out there on a website that happens to not be mobile-friendly, but is still one of the best possible pieces of content out there for the user at the time (based on their search), then that page can still rank on mobile devices.
Key Takeaways From The New Mobile-Friendly Update
- Desktop searches are safe, for now. Only affects mobile searches.
- It operates on a page-by-page basis, not a site-wide penalty.
- There are loopholes, it does not completely eliminate mobile-noncompliant pages.
Final Thoughts on Mobilegeddon
This update is huge. While Google might have been the first major search engine to officially promote sites that adhere to a mobile-friendly layout, other search engines such as Bing and Yahoo are expected to follow up soon with their own versions of a mobile-friendly update.
Mobile-adaptive design and mobile-ready content seems to be how users prefer to digest their content while on the move or accessing it via their mobile device, so why fight the user?
If you’re a small business owner, you should definitely grab your board and ride this mobile-friendly wave to the top of the results. Especially while most small business websites are not mobile-friendly. So strike while the iron’s hot!
Other Tools and Resources to Help You Go Mobile
- Google’s Free Guide to Mobile-Friendly Sites
- Google’s Mobile-Friendly Testing Tool
- Google Webmaster Tools Mobile Usability Report
- Moz’s Mobile Optimization Guide
- Mozilla’s Responsive Web Development Guide