Today Google releases yet another algorithm change up. This one is a game changer though, potentially affecting over 40 percent of Fortune 500 websites.
In an announcement earlier this year, Google stated that we should expect a change to its search algorithms which will begin to factor in a website’s “mobile-friendliness” as a ranking calculation. In short this means that those sites that are not optimized for smartphones and other smaller screen mobile devices will find themselves with a lower Google search placement.
Although Google’s new algorithm will not affect searched on desktop or laptop computers, it will have a huge impact on how and where people spend their money. The potential peril for those that aren’t yet mobile ready is so dire that the new roll out has inspired the term “Mobilegeddon.”
“Some sites are going to be in for a big surprise when they find a drastic change in the amount of people visiting them from mobile devices,” said Itai Sadan, CEO of website-building service Duda.
Google explained today that the change will affect mobile searches in all languages worldwide and will have “a significant impact in our search results.”
According to the research firm comScore, the number of mobile searches in the US alone has risen about 5 percent, subsequently lowering the same searches on PCs and desktops. Their results show a that 29 percent of all US search requests, that’s 18.5 Billion, were made on mobile devices.
This is nothing new. The industry has been shouting the need to be “mobile-ready” for a few years. The mobile web is growing rapidly and is crucial to the continued growth of your business.
You Aren’t The Only One
You aren’t ready? Even though it’s high time you changed that, you aren’t alone. According to a report on TechCrunch in 2013, two-thirds of the Fortune 100 were not ready for mobile search. And as early as earlier this year they determined that progress for the same companies from the same test were still slow to adapt, showing only about 52 percent of the Fortune 500 were mobile-ready.
How to Proceed
The search king has provided website owners with a few tools to make certain their sites live up to the new mobile search specs. They have a kind of checklist to determine if the site in question is mobile friendly, including a test, and a very broad “getting started” tutorial on building a responsive site.
In short, to stay in Google’s good graces, websites must be designed to load quickly on mobile devices, content must be easily accessible by scrolling up and down without having to swipe left or right or pinch and zoom, as well as having any and all buttons optimized for mobile’s smaller screens.
According to a helpful FAQ on SearchEngineLand, Google’s crawling can take anywhere from a few hours to over 72 hours – but site owners can expedite the process by using Fetch as Google with Submit to Index. Then pages can be treated as mobile-friendly in ranking, Google says.
Google published their own document spelling out the top seven mistakes that webmasters make when attempting to make their sites mobile-friendly:
App download interstitials
Slow mobile pages
They have also supplied a range of other resources to help get you up to speed. Its guide to creating mobile friendly websites includes sections on:
Customizing software to build responsively
Letting search engines know your site is mobile-friendly
Just HOW Bad Could It Get?
A few weeks ago the answer would have been a little unclear, today though the writing is bold and bright on the proverbial wall. Any website that is not deemed by Google’s definition of responsive ready will plummet in their rankings when searched for on mobile devices.
Does this mean that you must make your website mobile-ready or responsive? No, certainly not. But keep in mind that Google doesn’t have to rank your site either. There are other search engines, just the same as there are most likely other sites out there very similiar to yours. You know – your competition.
Is your content still relevant to the human race? Well yes, assuming it is relevant on a desktop. However, Googlebot might have another opinion and so might the majority of mobile users. “Availability is part of relevancy,” Gartner analyst Whit Andrews said. “A lot of people aren’t going to think something is relevant if they can’t get it to appear on their iPhone.”
The Long And Short
There are obviously a lot of items and details to consider, but the general consensus is that Google is making these changes primarily to provide an optimal user experience regardless of device.
As of today, Google’s mobile-centric update looks like the biggest mobile-related algorithm change we have seen as of yet, but I’d be willing to bet that it isn’t going to be the last.
It’s safe to say that the lesson learned from this update is that mobile-friendly websites are no longer a “nice to have” item but more of a “must have” in order to stay relevant and on top of your competition. A responsive design or mobile app is critical to both the user experience and your overall bottom line.