Google is at it again. The search giant is thought to carry out hundreds if not thousands of relatively subtle search algorithm changes every year, as well as some genuine monsters. And this latest one is a monster, designed to prioritise mobile-friendly websites over mobile unfriendly ones in the search results.
How come? Because the tipping point, where the number of us accessing the web by mobile overtook those using desktop PCs, passed sometime during 2015. Google wants to deliver the best possible search experience to users. Hence, it makes perfect sense to angle their algorithm towards the biggest bunch of users, a growing segment of mobile users as opposed to a shrinking segment of desk toppers.
What does mobile friendly search mean for website owners?
If your site is mobile-friendly, it’s just as easy and pleasurable to use on mobile devices as it is on a normal-size screen. If not, it’s time to grasp the mobile nettle and get things sorted out… fast.
If your website was built recently using the WordPress platform, it would likely already be mobile friendly. Having said that, it still makes sense to check what Google thinks about your site as regards mobile accessibility and performance. If issues are revealed, it’s your job to fix them, but fortunately, WordPress makes it relatively easy.
On the downside, if your website is designed from scratch or uses an obscure or proprietary CMS rather than a widely-used, popular one, fixing the issues might be time consuming and expensive, in a worst case scenario maybe not worth the bother. In which case you’ll probably need to shell out for a redesign.
Here’s some help and advice about how, why and when to get your website working beautifully on small-screen devices.
Do I need to build a separate mobile website?
In the early days of the mobile web you probably would have been advised to create a separate site for mobile users. These days you’d be mad to since every halfway decent CMS or design platform includes full mobile functionality as standard.
What if I already have a separate mobile site?
It’s probably worth getting a professional web designer to take a quick look and check your existing mobile site’s status. Early mobile sites were often clunky and clumsy – and in mobile web terms, ‘early’ means anything created more than a year ago. It’s better safe than sorry, and it’s dangerous just to assume everything’s OK.
When does the algorithm update go live?
As Google says in the Webmaster Central blog spot:
“Starting April 21, we will be expanding our use of mobile-friendliness as a ranking signal. This change will affect mobile searches in all languages worldwide and will have a significant impact in our search results.”
It means you’ll see more mobile-friendly websites in the organic search results from April 21st, 2015, a situation that’s set to have a significant impact on the natural search results in all languages, everywhere people use Google.
And there’s more. You’ll also see much more app content in the search results as Google starts to use information from indexed apps as a factor in ranking for “signed-in users who have the app installed”.
How do I check my site?
Thankfully Google has created some excellent guidelines about how to optimise the mobile experience, including a handy guide to best practice and a simple, effective mobile-friendly testing tools.
Mobile optimisation advice from Google
First, you need to identify what Google thinks you’re doing wrong, if anything. Here’s how. Bear in mind you need your Google account to access these handy tools:
- Google’s Step by Step Guide to App Indexing
- Google’s Guide to Mobile-Friendly site
- Google’s Mobile-Friendly Test
- Mobile Usability Report
If you get confused, you can ask questions in the Google Webmaster Help Forum. If you don’t want anything to do with the whole thing because it’s too scary, ask an expert. If you don’t have a mobile-friendly website yet, why not contact us? It might be high time you kicked off a website redesign to take into account all the new technologies, best practices and new procedures that have become the norm over the past couple of years.
Why should you need to redesign your site in line with the latest developments, user behaviour and technologies? C’est la vie, that’s why. Just like a high street shop, your ‘window’ needs to change regularly, your shop needs to stay up to date and remain as easy to ‘use’ as any other shop on the high street.
Can you just leave your mobile un-friendly site as it is?
It’s up to you, of course. But you will lose visibility in the search results if a competing website is more mobile friendly than yours. Which inevitably means you get fewer visitors and sales. You have to late April this year to get your act together. On the bright side, we can help!