If your online business currently operates a mobile site then there are big changes planned by Google this month that you should be aware of.
Google has announced that from 21st April 2015, Google’s mobile ranking factors will not only label your site as mobile friendly; they will also be used as part of a ‘mobile-friendliness’ test to determine whether your site should rank higher on the search results.
According to Google’s Webmaster Central Blog:
“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.”
Is this change really that surprising? Well, not really, when you consider that it’s abundantly clear that the top priority for search engines is the user, closely followed by the ease of use and quality of results that searcher experiences. So given the increased usage mobile devices these days life, it’s hardly surprising that people are demanding a better experience when they search on mobile devices. Google has clearly shown that it already cares about mobile: responsive-designed websites appeared to be favoured over non-responsive ones in mobile search, and mobile-friendly sites are tagged in search results.
However, with this coming algorithm change, Google’s mobile search update is clearly making a much stronger statement.
So what is likely to happen after 21st April? Well, the most important point to note is that any changes from the update will only impact mobile results. However, that impact will none the less still be significant. Although the precise percentage of searches done from mobile devices has not really been calculated – some claim it as much as 50% – what we do know is that a significant amount of online traffic is generated through mobile devices. So, it’s important therefore that businesses take the necessary precautions to avoid any negative impacts from the updates.
How significant will the changes be? Well, according to a report in eMarketer, Search Engine Watch is anticipating ‘Mobilegeddon’, claiming the update will have an even greater impact than both Panda and Penguin. A claim by a member of Google’s own Webmaster Trends Team has given Search Engine Watch’s fears some credence. All we know for sure is that the update will have a significant impact, so SEO specialists are advising that business should be prepared.
What precautions can your business take?
As the April 21 deadline approaches there are several steps you can take to prepare for Google’s latest update. These are the elements that are within your control that are fixable. Firstly run your site through a Mobile-Friendly test. Then have a look at some of the tips on Google Webmaster Tools to check for common errors like:
- Touch elements too close together:
Buttons should be sufficiently well-spaced to allow for easy navigation.
- Content not correctly sized to viewport, or viewport not configured:
A viewport controls how a page is displayed on mobile. Without it, mobile devices will render the page at desktop screen width, scaled down to fit the screen. Setting a viewport gives control over the page’s width and scaling on different devices.
- Small font size:
Make the font sizes readable on mobile and make sure there’s enough space between lines of text to ensure legibility.
- Don’t neglect your mobile email:
Although this isn’t necessarily a ranking factor, it is none the less an important, complementary item to consider while you’re working on mobility. Run Google’s Mobile-Friendly Test again to check for errors and try out other third party tools like mobiReady, W3C MobileOK Checker, MonkeyTalk or Saucelabs.