For years digital marketers have predicted mobile search would surpass desktop. In 2014, we finally saw it happen. It’s no surprise that we’re now seeing consequences for websites that are not mobile-friendly in search. Starting April 21st Google will include “mobile-friendliness” as a ranking signal. This change is expected to have a significant impact on worldwide search results – in all languages. Google’s goal is to make it easier to get relevant, high quality search results for users specifically optimized to their device of choice. No one knows the specific percentage of queries that will be impacted. However, Google has estimated about 50% of all search is done on a mobile device.
What should I do? Assess your situation and act fast…
It’s extremely important for you to ensure your site will not be hit negatively in search results due to this update. Make sure you “pass the Google test!” Google offers free link testing to analyze your site and report if the page is in a mobile-friendly design. Another easy tool is, Responsinator who offers a quick look at how your website will look on some of the more popular devices. It is not a precise replication so always be sure to have a quick look on a real mobile device if you’re able.
The next easiest thing is to open your site in Google Chrome and then right-click “Inspect Elements.” Next click on the Mobile icon to the left of “Elements,” refresh and choose any mobile device to ‘see’ what Google see’s. This is an excellent ‘hidden’ gem to check across all mobile devices that you may not have physical access to.
What if my site doesn’t pass?
If it turns out your site isn’t mobile- friendly set up a plan to make a mobile friendly site using 3rd party software or, if your budget and time allows, build a responsive site. Responsive is the ideal solution in this day and age if you have the means to do it. The good news is each page will be judged separately by the search engine. So one poorly optimized section won’t necessarily bring down the entire site in rankings. You can focus on the sections or pages of your site used most by mobile searchers. Review your Google Analytics prebuilt mobile segment report, which identifies users who have accessed your site on a device that Google Analytics has recorded as the “mobile device category” (smartphones and devices with smartphone-sized viewports). Through analyzing this report you can focus on what pages are converting better for mobile users. For more information on what factors are being judged and what to target fixing first, check out the Google mobile usability update.
The dilemma many marketers have concerning mobile is between building a “m.mysite.com” or a straight responsive site. There are some marketing advantages to having a “m.mysite.com” but they are few and most now agree Responsive is the way to go if you can. Having a separate mobile site is better than nothing but user experience should always be your first concern.
Is this really a big deal? You bet!
The Google team announced the mobile-friendly ranking algorithm would have a “significant impact” on search results from mobile devices. This is an important distinction from other recent updates – this is only impacting the mobile results. Even with that caveat, it is expected to have a more significant impact than Panda or Penguin.
The big takeaway is that if your site is not mobile-friendly – get to work now on it. Whatever amount of mobile traffic your site receives from Google is at a huge risk. The Crawl will happen in real-time. So as soon as issues are fixed on your site, recovery in rankings will start. Make that sooner rather than later!