A few weeks ago we revealed how Google was planning to update its search algorithm to prioritise mobile-friendly websites for people using small screen devices. The big day was 21st April, the point at which the algorithm update was launched into the wild for the first time.

Most major Google updates roll out gradually across the world, with some nations affected before others. So are there any signs in the UK so far, what effect is the change having, why is it so important and what are savvy web designers like us doing about it?

Mobile friendly Google search hits the big time

When Google itself says the impact of an algorithm update is due to have a ‘significant’ impact on the search results, it’s time to stand up and take note. They don’t dramatise for nothing. If you remember the ructions caused by the famous Panda and Penguin algorithm updates, you’d be right to worry.

This latest update means we will see a LOT more mobile-friendly web pages in the organic search results. As you can imagine, it’ll have a dramatic if not catastrophic impact on businesses that have left their websites to languish, not bothering to make them properly accessible and 100% functional on mobile devices. And it should also have a positive effect on the web pages whose owners have taken care to stay ahead of the mobile revolution.

Mobile unfriendly websites should drop

  • Mobile friendly web pages should rise in the search results, gaining better visibility
  • If you operate in a sector where most site owners have already taken account of the rise in mobile search, you may still end up competing with others in your sector for visibility
  • If you operate in an industry lagging behind the curve but you’ve already followed the mobile friendly road, you may see some benefit with better search positions

Why does good natural search visibility matter?

It’s a numbers thing. Being at the bottom of page 1 Google drives much less traffic than being at the top of the page 1 search results. The more visible you are to people who punt in your keywords when making a Google search, the more people you will attract. It’s more or less impossible to beat the ‘top of page 1’ effect unless you pay for high exposure with Google AdWords, AKA paid search.

What will the new search landscape look like?

As Google itself said in Webmaster Central on the big day, “As we noted earlier this year, today’s the day we begin globally rolling out our mobile-friendly update. We’re boosting the ranking of mobile-friendly pages in our search results. Now searchers can more easily find high-quality and relevant results where text is readable without tapping or zooming, tap targets are spaced appropriately, and the page avoids unplayable content or horizontal scrolling.”

Interestingly, the intent behind a search query still has a big part to play in the content Google delivers. This means a page with excellent quality content will still be able to rank high providing it delivers exactly what people want… which keeps quality right at the heart of the Google equation. In other words, when a piece of mobile un-friendly content is a better match for a given search phrase, you’re still likely to see it given priority, no matter how awful it looks on a small screen.

If you suffer a hit, it isn’t the end of the world. If your site pages are not currently mobile-friendly, all you need to do is fix things and Google will re-crawl and re-index your pages, taking your new mobile friendliness into account.

How has the change affected UK search so far?

Today, just a day after the roll-out began, things are pretty quiet. The only news available so far seems to be announcements about the nature of the change and speculation about its eventual effect. It looks like the new algorithm hasn’t quite hit the British search results yet… unless you know different?

The world’s SEO experts, digital marketers and content marketers will be watching carefully to see who falls and who rises. We’ll update you when we know more.

How do we handle mobile compatible web design?

It’s nothing new. Sorry to be boring, but we’ve been designing and building mobile compatible websites for years. If you’re an existing customer of ours, your site is already accessible via any and all mobile devices, working correctly and looking just a good as it does on a bigger screen. If you’re reading this on a mobile, how do we look?

Get in touch if you’d like to partner with a website design agency that stays ahead of the curve instead of wondering what the curve is, how to find it and what to do with it once they get there!