Google have announced their campaign to get website owners and webmasters ready to update their websites for changes in mobile friendly ranking factors, with a deadline set by the firm of the 21st April 2015.
As of this date Google has advised they will be expanding their use of “mobile-friendliness” as a ranking signal, and that it will affect all mobile searches worldwide. There is expected to be a significant impact in Google’s search results so we are advising below what web site owners can do to ensure they are ready in plenty of time.
Will this affect my website?
It is rare for Google to announce algorithm updates publicly, certainly ones that come with a deadline. Typically Google make tweaks to their algorithm “behind the scenes” and leave it to webmasters (and SEO’s) to figure out what changes have taken place.
With this announcement and that Google have stated a “significant impact” in their organic rankings, makes it more likely your website would be affected if it is not yet mobile friendly. With warnings and notices appearing in Google’s Webmaster Tools program, where sites aren’t optimised for mobile this strengthens our recommendation to take the necessary steps to protect your rankings and traffic.
If you visit your website on a mobile phone and have to pinch and zoom to read its content then its very, very likely your site is NOT optimised for mobile visitors.
How critical is it to optimise my site for mobile devices?
Answering this comes down to the sector your business operates in and your online audience. In our experience visits from mobile devices are increasing as more and more users elect to use their smartphones to surf online, especially with many users now having access to a fast 4G signal (or greater access to free wifi).
If you have a high ratio of mobile visitors generating the majority of your traffic then this could be detrimental if you choose not to optimise your site for mobile as Google may decide to rank competitors who are optimised for mobile much higher than your website.
Even if you only get a trickle of mobile visitors at the moment this could change and we would urge you to ensure your website performs seamlessly across all platforms and that you aren’t left falling behind your competitors.
How should I optimise my website for mobile?
Website owners face 2 options if they wish to optimise their sites for mobile, one is “responsive design”, the other is having a separate mobile site to your main website.
What is a responsive designed website?
Using CSS to alter the format and structure the page, your site adapts to the detected screen size the user is viewing. You have one website that correctly shows elements dependent on the platform whether it is desktop, tablet or smartphone. This is what most would recommend for a website, but it is not a “cheap” option, but it does allow you to make content changes to just one website.
What is a mobile only website?
This type of website depends on detecting the device being used to view the site pages and direct the user to different URLs, essentially 2 websites, one for mobile and the other for desktop etc. This is generally viewed as a simpler way of providing content to your mobile visitors and may in some circumstances be a cheaper option.
Typically if you elect to take this route your mobile site might be a smaller version of your main website, so think carefully about the types of content and meta data you want to include as you don’t want to duplicate content across both sites (mobile and desktop).
How can I assess my site?
Grab your mobile and open your website and check how it looks on-screen. If you have to and tap in or pinch to expand and view content to make it more easily readable then it is highly likely no mobile optimisation is in place.
You can also ask Google to test your site – use their Mobile Friendly site tester here:
Note, there has been some news that the tool is possibly flawed, see more here:
For business owners Google has created this handy guide that should prove useful:
Should I optimise my website for mobile?
Simply, if you wish to future proof your website and maximise visitors from search engines via their mobile phones then the answer is yes.
If you have no wish to fall behind your competitors who do optimise for mobile then the answer is still yes.
Perhaps web traffic from search engines is not all that important, maybe you gain much more traffic from social media but then the answer is keep it under strong consideration, who knows it may also become a factor, in some respects, for Facebook or Twitter.
Let us know if you have any questions, we’ll be delighted to answer them for you!