For a while now, Google has factored mobile usability as part of its search algorithm. Sites that are suitably optimized for mobile device use rank higher in organic search results than non-optimized websites, even when viewed on desktop devices. However, until now the weight that ranking factor carried has been unclear and somewhat limited.
With the exception of the “mobile-friendly” tag mobile search results would assign to various websites, it hasn’t been entirely clear what factors into Google’s calculations when considering the value of mobile rankings or how many sites are even affected. Because of this ambiguity, many small business owners have avoided or postponed optimizing their sites for mobile devices, and have yet to see any negative consequences as a result.
On April 21, that’s will no longer be the case.
According to a recent post on Google’s blog, the search engine plans on rolling out a significant change to their algorithm that will revolutionize the way mobile friendliness is calculated. Beginning April 21, this new algorithm with start to rollout gradually worldwide, influencing mobile search results everywhere.
Impact of the Update
Since Google already factors mobile friendliness as part of its ranking calculations, you might be asking why the April 21 deadline is even important?
While it’s accurate that most of Google’s algorithm “updates” are actually just data tweaks and refreshes that have little effect on existing search rankings, the April 21 update promises to do so much more. Recently, a member of Google’s Webmaster Trends team was quoted as saying that the upcoming mobile-friendly algorithm will have a bigger impact on search ranking results than either Penguin or Panda, two of the biggest and most impactful search algorithm updates Google has ever implemented.
Currently not much is known about what the update will contain, so it’s hard to say just what the exact impact will be. However, insiders do know that this new update will alter the way Google evaluates the mobile-friendliness of websites going forward, just not what new factors will be added or how significantly these factors will be able to change the visibility of sites in organic search results. Based on the comments issued by top Google executives, it’s reasonable to expect that the majority of non-optimized websites will see some significant decrease in search visibility.
The Mobile Search Trend
Based on some forecasts, over 60 percent of all Google searches are conducted on mobile devices, so it’s understandable that Google wants to provide the best possible experience for its users.
In addition to the upcoming algorithm, Google has already started to implement ranking changes based on data from indexed apps of signed-in users. This could have a significant impact on how search results are displayed as well as the type of results that are displayed. While search results have traditionally displayed only websites, future search results could begin to focus on apps and other mobile tools.
No matter what path future search results take, it’s becoming clear that the businesses that excel at catering to mobile users will receive the highest visibility from Google.
Your Mobile Checklist
You don’t have anything to worry about if your business’ website is already optimized for mobile users. However, if you have yet to implement a strategy for mobilization, now is your final opportunity to take action.
Follow these tips:
- Make sure a mobile version of your website is up and running. While responsive designs are the most popular mobile strategy, you can elect to have a separate hosted mobile version of your website. Google doesn’t prefer one technique over the other, as long as mobile users have a positive experience.
- Make sure Google’s mobile bots have access to your website. For all practical purposes, if the bots cannot see your site, it doesn’t exist.
- Check every page on your website individually to make sure they are navigable on mobile devices. Just because the home page works on your iPhone doesn’t mean the about, services, or other pages of your site do as well.
Google also provides a couple of tools you can use to check on the mobile-friendliness of your website. You can use either the aptly named Mobile-Friendly Test or the Mobile Usability Report found in Google’s Webmaster Tools to test how your website fares. You’ll have about 30 days to fix any bugs or errors you find after running these tests before your site starts to incur any penalties.
While the April 21 deadline promises to be the single biggest mobile-related algorithm update Google has issue yet, the odds are it won’t be the last. Don’t take any chances with your website’s search visibility by ignoring mobilization. Local Fresh can help mobilize your business’ website and help maintain and improve your search ranking. Click here to find out what Local Fresh can do for you.