For those of you who were under a rock for the past few months, today (April 21st 2015 US time) is the day that one of Google’s biggest algorithm updates is due to be launched. Said to affect just searches on mobile devices but more websites than the Panda algorithm (12% of search queries) and the Penguin algorithm (3.1% of search queries) it is sure to be a big day in Google’s history and one that will leave unprepared SEO teams and small business owners facing a big loss of traffic and likely some tough questions. Google itself stated that:
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.
This update lines up with Google’s main strategy for ensuring they remain the search engine of choice for years to come – delivering its users the most useful & relevant content for their search term and the best possible user experience for their device. The best part about this update and being forced to get up to speed is you’ll notice ranking increases for mobile searches (as some of your competitors will be slow to act) and you’ll likely notice a conversion rate increase if you haven’t previously had a mobile site. This means that any work done on your mobile site is well worth the investment and well worth prioritising.
So what is Google looking for?
Google is looking for two main things:
- A responsive or dedicated mobile site – nobody likes to zoom and scroll continuously around Desktop sites on their mobile phones or tablets – Google’s update will target any site which is still running just a Desktop site.
- Good user experience – as well as checking if you have a mobile optimised site, Google also wants you to have a mobile friendly site, that is one thats very easy for users to use. Issues like text being too small to read, having links too close together (and thus hard to push with a thumb) or not configuring viewport correctly will be targeted in this update.
So how can you check your own site?
There a few ways you can see how much you are going to be or already are affected by this algorithm update as well as checking for when you’ve successfully resolved all issues.
1. Do a mobile search for your site
The fastest way to see if you are potentially in trouble is to grab a mobile device and search for your own site. Use the search term site:domain.co.nz and if you see the ‘Mobile-friendly’ tag next to your URL you’re off to a good start.
2. Use Google’s mobile-friendly tool
To help webmasters get their websites up to speed Google has recently launched a tool that will diagnose any issues so that you can fix them one by one. Simply put your domain into this tool and you’ll either get a tick or a list of things you need to fix at the domain level.
3. Check Your Google Webmaster Tools report
Checking Webmaster Tools frequently should be part of any SEO team or business owners recurring tasks and if you’ve checked recently you would have noticed a Mobile Usability page under ‘Search Traffic’. This page will give you specific page by page analysis of any issues your mobile site currently has.
4. User test your site
Either using your own internal staff, a number of unbiased friends or even better paying for some independent third party tests like those available at UserTesting.com it is a good idea to actually get your mobile site tested by humans. This way you will find user experience issues which you didn’t even think of and which can be fixed and improved upon and may be part of a future Google mobile update.
Nobody but Google knows what the updates that will happen today will hold but its sure to be an interesting moment in Google’s history and a great way to finally get businesses around the world ready for the continued growth in mobile traffic I have seen over recent years. If you’re still not set for this update then get started on a responsive or mobile site and start working on any of the issues found in Google’s tools straight away to minimise the impact. I wrote an interesting article almost a year ago which outlines some other issues that can cause you to lose mobile rankings that you should put on your list to check along with an article on site speed which is my pick for Google’s next algorithm update target.
If you were affected by Google’s mobile update or have any questions on how to improve your site let me know in the comments.