Google Strongly Recommends Businesses Go Mobile Before April 21

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by Michael Rough and Chelsea Terris

It’s official: a new search update will come into effect on April 21, 2015 that will give a rankings boost to mobile-friendly websites and penalize mobile-unfriendly sites in local search results.

That’s right.

If you do not have a mobile website on April 21, Google will be penalizing your site and very possibly burying it pages deep in the local mobile search results. In the words of The Goog, “Starting April 21, we will be expanding our use of mobile-friendliness as a ranking signal. This will affect mobile searches in all languages worldwide and will have a significant impact in our search results.”

As Rae Hoffman stated at SEMpdx’s Searchest last week, this is the first algorithm update that Google has called “significant.” Earth-shaking changes in recent memory have escaped this label, including Panda and Penguin, so we can expect that this update means business and treat it with the seriousness that a change announced in this manner merits.

What Will This Update Mean For Me?

Google has long discussed the importance of onsite user experience as a ranking factor. The internet giant wants navigability, load-time, and a myriad other factors to contribute to an excellent experience for each and every person surfing and using the web. However, the pending update will require sites that want to rank to be usable on multiple devices.

For the first time in history, internet use on mobile devices exceeds use on desktop computers, and it’s never going back. If your site is not usable on mobile, fewer and fewer users will be visiting it and/or contacting your business through information found online. After April 21, users may not even be able to see your site in the mobile search results without a mobile-friendly update.It is probably only a matter of time before mobile and desktop search results merge into one index.

How Can I Tell if My Site Needs a Mobile Update?

This simple question is one business owners are asking themselves more often. Depending on who you ask, you may get varying answers. A great starting point is using the Google Mobile Friendly Test to spot check your homepage and other high traffic pages on your site. A more thorough audit of your whole site can be done through Google Mobile Usability Tool (Note: You need to have your site verified through Google Webmaster Tools. Call us if you have questions about this!).

Checking the sources of your web traffic will help you determine whether or not your site needs a mobile update. If Google Analytics are verified on your site, you will be able to see what percentage of your current organic traffic comes from mobile devices. If your site is currently receiving more than a third of it’s traffic from mobile devices, you may want to consider updating your site or risk losing a significant portion of your traffic. Conversely, improving your website’s mobile experience increases your chances of gaining even more traffic on mobile search and converting those users to leads and sales.

Ways to Go Mobile

Luckily, Google’s pending mobile-friendliness update is on our calendar. We are excited to be able to bring you this news in time for you to make the changes necessary to continue to rank, and rank well, in mobile search results!

What are your options for a mobile makeover?

  • Responsive Design: Also known as liquid design, responsive design shape-shifts to fit the physical dimensions of the device on which you are viewing the site. Viewers will never have to zoom in or out to view content; rather, content accommodates the screen size and shape. Responsive design is by far the best, most seamless option for business owners who want their site to delight Google and users alike.
  • Adaptive Design: With this type of design, the URL remains the same as your normal site. However, the server sends a different HTML and CSS to suit the type of device on which your user is viewing the page. Thus, the user gets a mobile-friendly experience, no matter what device he or she has in hand.
  • Mobile site: The most dated form of mobile-friendly site, mobile sites are websites created separately from your regular site. They offer a mobile experience to users wishing to access your site on various devices, using a version created specifically to be mobile-friendly. Mobile sites can be hosted on a subdomain or in a subfolder of your domain, or use your current URL but provide dynamic HTML to desktop and mobile visitors, depending on the device.

The update will be here April 21, and will change the way your site shows up in search results. Whether that change is positive or negative depends entirely on your choice to make your site mobile friendly. But don’t take our word for it! Below are a list of trusted business and SEO resources announcing Google’s plans:

Even if your site isn’t currently impacted by mobile search, it’s important to note that Google has a historic tendency to create singular experiences for users with their search results. It is probably only a matter of time before mobile and desktop search results merge into one index. If and when this happens, the change would make a significant (there’s that word again) impact on any business that relies on search traffic to drive leads and is not yet mobile-friendly.

Why wait? If you have questions about mobile-friendliness, Webfor has answers! Our team is ready to work with you on your mobile-friendly options and whatever adaptation best serves your purposes and budget, so you can reap the benefits of this update.

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