Google’s Mobile Deadline is April 21: Follow These Steps to Stay Mobile Friendly
Search Engine Optimization
There’s no denying that users are shifting search habits from desktop to mobile. In order to keep up, marketers and business owners are urgently seeking to be more mobile friendly. This is true for Google as well. In order to provide users with the most relevant mobile search results, it will soon pull mobile friendly website content to the top of search results with a new algorithm update to be released on April 21, 2015.
Google has given website owners forewarning of this change, urging owners to switch to a more mobile friendly alternative as soon as possible. As a site owner, here is what you need to know about this huge announcement.
Number of Smartphone Users Worldwide
According to SmartInsights, out of the 1.5 billion mobile Internet users worldwide, roughly 80% are smartphone users. If this hasn’t encouraged you to convert to mobile, Google will provide you with this one last push.
Very Specific Google Warning
According to the announcement on February 26, 2015, Google sent this warning:
“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.”
Keywords: “significant impact in our search results.” For the last few years, Google has urged site owners to become more mobile friendly, but until now been very vague about it, only hinting of its impact on search rankings. This is in addition to its panda, hummingbird, and penguin algorithm updates we hear about every once in a while. This Google announcement, however, was very specific, even giving site owners a deadline well in advance.
Mobile Friendly Website Choices
With this critical announcement, Google has given site owners enough time they need to prepare for the upcoming changes. What site owners will need to consider is what type of mobile website to focus on building. Think about your target audience and how they are likely to perform action on your mobile site. Will they be browsing through merchandise? Will they need to contact you to set up an appointment? Mobile search accounts for 60% of online traffic to websites so it’s important to include contact information. Consider all possible actions in order to make a helpful site layout and navigation menu. Navigation should be quick to access and easy to click on with big call-to-action buttons.
Dedicated Mobile Website
A dedicated mobile website is a separate entity from your main website and only loads on mobile devices. This is “quick fix” if you are in need of a mobile website fast. At the bare minimum, these sites will have a handful of tabs with content, including contact information for customers to get in touch. See an example in action here.
Responsive Site Design
This is the Google-recommended type of mobile site. Responsive site design removes the need for a separate or dedicated mobile site. It gives you the ability to host one website that automatically and fluidly adjusts to the screen size, no matter if that screen size is a mobile, tablet, or desktop device. See an example in action here.
Google will be looking for and adjust to site elements such as:
- Whether or not fonts will adjust to be legible on smaller screens.
- If buttons are easy to use and spaced out enough to be touched on handheld devices.
- Flash is no good – if your site still uses Flash, it will not play well on mobile devices which could make the Googlebot’s job harder to crawl your site.
- If you have a separate or dedicated mobile website, does your main website redirect properly to the mobile website.
- Avoidance of cross-linking. This is when a desktop-optimized page is linked within a mobile version of a site or vice versa.
- Do mobile pages have an appropriate load time?
How to Get Started Right Away
Google has two helpful tools to get started and allow you to see how your current website is performing on mobile. The first is the Google Mobile Usability report, which is found in Google Webmaster Tools. The second is the Mobile Friendly Website Test which allows you to enter a specific website URL to generate a website report card. These tools will help you better understand how mobile friendly your website is already and what you can do to make improvements.
Just like SEO, content marketing, and other aspects that affect your web presence, don’t go adjusting to the algorithm change, but make changes with your customers in mind. The more effort and emphasis you place on providing the right information at the right time to your customers, the more it helps both your organization and Google in the long run.