Is Your Website Ready for Google’s Next Update?

Mobile has always been high on Google’s priority list. Ever since 2010, when Eric Schmidt (then CEO of Google) introduced a ‘mobile-first’ mantra, they have preached about the importance of mobile.

In February Google announced that they will begin using ‘mobile-friendliness’ as a ranking signal in their search algorithms from April 21st. This is a huge change – it’s even being dubbed ‘mobilegeddon’ – and perhaps marks the biggest change in mobile to-date. Google has been working towards this for several years but now they are taking the final step – using mobile friendliness as a ranking signal:

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.Google Webmaster Central Blog

To cut a long story short, this means that if Google doesn’t consider your website ‘mobile-friendly’ you’re likely to see a significant drop in search traffic after the 21st April. That’s not good.

Update 15/05/15: Bing has announced that they will follow Google’s lead and also penalise non-mobile-friendly sites in their search results. This makes it more important than ever to optimise your website for mobile visitors.

How Does Google Rank Websites?

When you search, Google’s incredibly complex and sophisticated algorithms get to work, looking at websites and trying to decide which ones are most relevant to you. It used to be the case that Google would just look at each page on the internet and count up how many times your search term appeared on that page; the page with the highest number of occurrences of your search term would be considered the most relevant. (This is an overly simplified explanation but it demonstrates the concept). Then they started taking into account new ‘ranking signals’, for example looking at your location. If you searched for ‘pizza’ and Google knew that you were somewhere near Windsor, they would show you pizza restaurants near Windsor, not ones in Rome.

Google Search results for Tenfold Media, highlighting 'Mobile-friendly' label

Google’s most recent change was to label search results as ‘mobile-friendly’ in search results on mobile devices.

Now Google is about to add a brand new ranking signal: mobile-friendliness. We all know that browsing a website that isn’t optimised for mobile devices can be a real chore – you have to constantly zoom in and out to read different sections of text. Google started working on ideas to improve this experience some time ago; most recently they launched ‘mobile-friendly’ labels in search results on mobile devices (see right). But they still needed to do more.

Starting on April 21st, when you search on a mobile device Google will consider websites that are optimised for mobile devices to be more relevant than those that aren’t. They will penalise your website if they don’t consider it to be mobile-friendly, which could mean that it drops out of the search results. This could mean a huge drop in traffic to your site, leading to lost revenue and customers. When as much as 50% of web traffic is now mobile and a staggering 83% of mobile search traffic comes directly from Google, you begin to see the importance of ensuring that your website is mobile-friendly!

Does Google Consider My Website to be ‘Mobile-Friendly’?

There’s a very simple way to find out! Just type in your website’s address below and click ‘Analyze’.

Hopefully you’ll see a ‘this page is mobile-friendly’ result! If you see the dreaded ‘not mobile-friendly’ result, Google will tell you why your website didn’t pass the test (scroll down in the tool or open it in a new tab to see this) and point you to some tips for how you can improve your website to make it more usable on mobile devices. The likelihood is that you’ll need to hire a web design company to redesign your website with mobile-friendliness in mind in order to maintain your level of mobile traffic after the algorithm update.

What Is Responsive Web Design?

Mobile-friendly websites fall into two categories: dedicated mobile sites and ‘responsive’ sites.

Dedicated mobile websites were popular a few years ago when ‘mobile’ was just getting started, but they are no longer a good solution. They attempt to detect which device the website visitor is using and display a specifically designed mobile version of your website to fit that device. The problem with this is that there are an infinitely expanding number of mobile devices and screen sizes, which makes maintenance very difficult.

Image demonstrating the difference between the 'conventional' approach of dedicated mobile websites the new approach, Responsive Web Design

Responsive Websites are a far better solution. Instead of designing a different website for each device, you design a website that works on every device. The website ‘responds’ to the capabilities of the device, for example the screen size, and presents the website visitor with an experience that is tailored to their device. The experience wont be exactly the same on a phone as on a laptop – and that’s intentional. On a responsive website all of the content and functionality should be identical, but the design of the site should ‘morph’ this content to fit the screen you’re viewing it on (see the example in the image above). This makes maintaining your website easy as you only have to maintain one set of website content – the website’s styling code handles the rest.

Google recommends using responsive design in their ‘Mobile Guide‘ (which is worth a quick read if you’re planning a website project).

For an example of a responsive website, check out this website or any website in our portfolio. Every website we design is fully responsive. Try them out by shrinking your browser window down – they will morph to fit the size of the browser. Or – even better – just try them out on your phone or tablet!

How Can I Make My Website Responsive?

If your website isn’t already responsive, you’ll probably need to call in an expert. Google does offer some tips for how you can revamp your existing site to make it mobile-friendly, but it get’s pretty technical pretty fast. Working with a responsive website design company (like us!) will get you the best results, and it can be surprisingly cost effective – especially when you balance it against the cost to your business of all the traffic you could lose after Google’s algorithm update on April 21st.

We can either modify the code of your existing website to make it work better on mobile devices, or we can start from scratch, designing you a beautiful new website that meets all modern web design standards. We can also help you find out how important mobile traffic is to you by scrutinising the analytics data for your existing website.

To get you started, we are offering a FREE website review to businesses who could benefit from an upgraded website or new mobile strategy. Online marketing is about much more than just building a website and setting it free – it’s about developing a strategy to drive traffic to that website, then convert that traffic to sales. Our offer is open to anyone, so if you are a business owner or marketing manager who could benefit then get in touch today. We’d love to talk to you about your business requirements and discover how we can help you grow your business. Likewise, if you know somebody who you think could benefit then let them know!

You don’t have long before Google’s update on April 21st, so get in touch today to secure your business’s future in the mobile world.