Google’s Mobile Algorithm Update
By now, 21st April must be ingrained in the minds of most small business owners; including those of you who read my blog. The date in question of course marks, probably, the biggest shake-up of search results since the introduction if Hummingbird. I am of course talking about Google’s introduction of a mobile algorithm update. This marks the expansion of the mobile-friendly ranking signal, and will be rolled out for all languages world-wide although it’s unlikely be completed in one day.
There has certainly been a great amount of scaremongering about this update. You may want to know if you should you be worried. But perhaps the more fundamental question to ask is how have you prepared your site for the update?
Let me set the scene.
Mobile search isn’t new, but as widely predicted, we’re on the cusp of more people using a smart phone to access the internet than a traditional desktop. Google recognises the growth in mobile search and is working on a separate mobile index. In the meantime we have 21st April.
Mobile-friendly will go beyond having a responsive site. It is how information is displayed and can be used that counts and mobile-friendliness will be determined at the page rather than site level.
You can use the Google tool now to check your site https://www.google.com/webmasters/tools/mobile-friendly/
There is some good news. Unlike Panda or Penguin there will be no penalty box. This means if parts of your site or your whole site don’t show up in searches post implementation it’s possible to remedy a non-compliant site quickly. Of the available options, Google prefers sites to be responsive but you also have the option of a separate mobile site, typically hosted on a subdomain.
I do worry about businesses who don’t acknowledge changing customer habits or the SEO environment around them. This is particularly true for ecommerce sites where you can easily make the case for a separate mobile site where transactions and checkouts need to be simple, and are required to be mobile compliant. Going this route however can mean more maintenance work, so design is important. A mobile site needs to be built in a different way.
There’s no one correct solution for all. But it is important to have some response to changing searcher habits and Google’s new algorithm. Ultimately to survive you need to get a useable site in front of customers.
A responsive site can be less hassle long term because it offers more flexibility. On the other hand a mobile site may deliver a better experience yet there is more work updating more than one site.
Clearly, after the 21st we will all be operating in a new world. You may feel under pressure to do something now. However If anything is true of websites it’s that it’s easy to be too hasty.
I would advise taking stock of the level of mobile-friendliness your pages offer. You should also speak to a few customers. Only then are you able to start focusing on making changes.
The best advice I can give? Don’t commission anything you don’t understand. Work with someone who will help you make an informed decision about the best route for your business. Long term, this is a big deal.