Where is my flying car? Where is my robot assistant? Where is my magical pill that gives me all my essential nutrients? When is the future coming?
It may be hard to see at times, but we are living in a futuristic society that much of the sci-fi was unable to predict. Sure, we don’t have some of the more outrageous things seen in those films, but what we do have is the unlimited power of knowledge at our fingertips. Many of us carry around computers disguised as phones in our pockets. With a few swipes we can have the latest news on Bruce Jenner’s sex change. What happens when the site with that news isn’t mobile friendly? Up until recently it just meant the site probably had a higher bounce rate on mobile devices. Starting April 21st it could mean a lot more.
On February 26th the Google Webmasters blog posted an update about mobile-friendly search results. It stated that on April 21st, sites that were mobile-friendly would receive a boost in their rankings.
So, what does this mean for you? If you don’t currently have a mobile-friendly site, expect your rank in organic searches on mobile through Google to drop significantly.
Why the Change?
Google’s main product is search. To do their job well, they have to give you the best links pertaining to your results. If while on your phone or tablet device you receive a site that isn’t optimized for your device, they’ve made it harder to find a solution to your query. Their latest change is an effort to ensure mobile users get content that is not only accurate, but easily readable on their devices.
You may be wondering why Google is making such a big push, but experts have been predicting the change for a while now. Over the past few years mobile search has exploded. Just take a moment to think about all the people you see in public playing on their phones. The next time you are on the highway and you see an erratic driver who’s playing on his phone, thank your lucky stars that Google is making mobile search a better product so Jerky McJerkerson doesn’t have to spend as much time looking at his phone. Smartphones are so prevalent that this update had to occur.
According to comScore, mobile search (smartphone and tablet searches) account for almost a third of all searches. The same study shows that the number of people using smartphones to access the web is continually growing. Currently, some sites that jWeb manages have seen upwards of 50% of their traffic from mobile devices.
All signs point to this being one of the biggest updates Google has made in recent history. Google has been using mobile-friendly sites as a positive ranking signal since 2013. This is a bit different though. Zineb Ait Bahajji, a member of the Google Webmaster Trends team, has stated that the impact of this update will be greater than the previous Panda and Penguin update. To put it in non-SEO terms, businesses without mobile-ready sites are going to feel some hurt.
The good news is that this change currently will only be affecting search results on mobile. Google employees have stated that the change will not have an effect on desktop search results. That statement doesn’t mean things wont change in the future. It’s also important to note that not having a mobile site won’t de-index you from the search engine.
How Do You Know If Your Site Is Mobile Friendly?
Luckily, Google doesn’t do these changes willy nilly, and have provided a series of tools to ensure you are ready for their update. To find out how mobile ready your site is, go to Google’s Mobile-Friendly Test page. Plug in your URL and see what Google says. You’ll either get the green light that says you are ready to go or the red light that tells you April 21st may not be the most pleasant experience for your organic search.
What Can You Do?
We’ve covered the fact that this update is going to be a pain for people. But what are the next steps?
Start by talking to the people who currently run your website (if that’s us, all the better). They should be able to tell you exactly what you need to do to get your site in the clear. For instance, some sites may look current, but lack the proper stylesheets to be a proper responsive website. Those sites will be able to utilize new stylesheets with media queries to convert the site to responsive.
Many sites will need to be approached from square one. The web is a fast moving entity, and many brands change their sites every year to reflect that. Chances are thoughts about user experience and user interface have evolved since your site’s last redesign. If that is the case, you are at a perfect point to consider a complete overhaul of your website. The downside is that you’ll most likely experience a drop in traffic until the new site is up. The upside is that upon launch of the new site, the authority that you lost should be easily gained back.