Be mobile-friendly or face Mobilegeddon
Days to Mobilegeddon: 14
Panic level: moderate
Vaccination kit: installment 1 of 3
Google’s going nuclear April 21st
If you haven’t heard, come a little closer and listen up. If you have a website and it’s not optimized to work on a mobile phone, start stockpiling litre water bottles and dehydrated food. Kidding. But Google did make an announcement recently about their newest update rolling out April 21st, and it’s been (oh so kindly) nicknamed ‘Mobilegeddon.’
Mobilegeddon: back to the basics
The what: Google is making some changes to the formula it uses to rank search results on mobile devices. The changes begin to roll out April 21st and will have a “significant impact”. If your website is mobile-friendly, it will be favoured and appear higher on search results than one that’s not.
The where: This new ranking formula will affect mobile searches only, but will still have more of an impact than either of Google’s previous updates ‘Penguin’ and ‘Panda.’
From the horse’s mouth: Here’s an excerpt from Google’s ‘Webmaster Central Blog’ where they discuss the change:
“When it comes to searching on mobile devices, users should get the most relevant and timely results…as more people use mobile devices to access the internet, our algorithms have to adapt to these usage patterns…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. Consequently, users will find it easier to get relevant, high quality search results that are optimized for their devices”.
The also: Remember, back in November Google launched the ‘mobile-friendly’ label in mobile search results to “help mobile searchers know which sites they may click on”. This new April 21st update will take into account your site’s ‘mobile-friendly or not’ label and use it to determine if your website should appear higher in search results.
Does Google care how I get mobile-friendly?
Google writes that they ‘recognize three different configurations for building mobile sites’. Out of these three types, they recommend using responsive design. Heard that word around and still not quite sure what it means? Never fear. As part 2 of your Mobilegeddon vaccine kit, we’re talking next week all about responsive design vs. mobile-friendly vs. mobile site vs. other delicious jargon. So stay tuned.
Why does Mobilegeddon matter to me?
Let’s break Mobilegeddon down with some real numbers. Many researchers have said that 50-60% of all Google searches are now done on mobile. So look at that as over half of your target audience (be it potential investors, those in your community, etc). looking at your website on a mobile phone. If your site isn’t mobile-friendly after this update? Well, then you’ll be really hard for people to find.
We took a look at some of our numbers and found that 40% of site traffic to our client’s websites comes from either a mobile or tablet device. That’s pretty huge. And it means that after Google’s update goes into effect, these websites could lose that same percentage of traffic. We think author Jay Taylor puts the vitality of optimizing for mobile the best. He says: ‘go mobile or become irrelevant’.
The phrase ‘search engine algorithm’ seems important, but makes my head hurt.
We thought it might be helpful to give you a basic sketch about what we’re even talking about when we announce that Google is changing its secret search engine formula. Basically, those lucky Page 1 search results are actually anything but luck. The Moz Blog writes “the factors in the algorithm consist of ‘hard factors’ as the number of backlinks to a page and some social recommendations…you may also have factors on the page itself”. Basically, all that hodge-podge means is that there are different, very specific factors that Google uses to decide where your site will rank in search results. Mobilegeddon means that mobile-friendliness just became one of those factors.
There are many small things you can do, such as including certain words in your website, to appear higher on Google’s search results. Heard of that snazzy acronym SEO? It stands for Search Engine Optimization, and there are whole books about ways to optimize yourself for Google. We’ve written a bit about SEO and other Google analytics tools here, and we work SEO tactics into our clients’ websites daily. For now, however, we just want you to be aware that the results you see on the first few pages of Google aren’t there by accident. If you’re wondering how to get higher on Google, mobile optimization is what you need to be thinking about.
Help, I’m scared.
We got you. If any of this stuff still confuses you, this post is part 1 of 3. We’re going to ride out Mobilegeddon until that treacherous day of April 21st. As we mentioned earlier, check back in next Tuesday for a thorough breakdown of what it means to have a site with a ‘responsive design’ (good to know since Google recommends it), what the difference is between responsive design and just having a mobile site, and what in the world people mean anyway when they want you to be ‘mobile-friendly’.