It’s rare that Google warns webmasters and designers of imminent changes to the secret sauce that is the search ranking algorithm. However, in the case of mobile search and the way in which Google assesses a web site for its mobile-friendliness, we have been warned. The shot has been fired over the bow and the clock is ticking down to when we know change is coming to mobile search.
Google has been firing warning shots over our heads for months now. But those warning shots are getting a little closer to the ear now that the date has been drawn in the sand.
April 21, 2015. That’s when the change comes.
Why Are Mobile Search & Usability Important?
Mobile use of browsers for search has been skyrocketing around the globe. In some markets, like Asia, mobile search already exceeds search conducted from desktops and laptops. Nearly everyone over 13 years of age has a smartphone these days. Not nearly as many have a “computer” in the classic sense.
Recent studies show that across all industries worldwide, the average web site receives 30% of its traffic from mobile visitors - people using Smartphones and tablets. And for many companies, that visitor share is much, much higher.
In recent years, it’s become more and more important to web designers and business owners that their web site be easy to use in a small screen, mobile environment. Many sites are built with responsive code, or use a third-party plugin to render a mobile version. Some sites have wholly unique web sites experiences that load for people using a mobile device or tablet. In all cases, mobile-friendly web sites need to load fast, not suck up a lot of data for users, and give visitors what they want, not everything your site has. Make buttons and menus easier to engage. Make the shopping cart simpler.
As this concerns Google and other search engines, it’s important that web sites they deliver as a top search result for a given keyword or phrase provide their customers with that easier, faster, better experience. After all, if you don’t like the choices Google gives you, you might think about using Bing or Yahoo!
Fast forward to 2014 and Google began sending warnings to webmasters through Google’s Webmaster Tools about mobile accessibility issues. And now in early 2015, those warnings have skyrocketed by recent accounts.
Just two weeks ago, Google made a formal announcement that they will be “expanding the use of mobile-friendliness as a ranking signal.” Their exact quote was: “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.”
Everyone and anyone that’s been in the SEO and web design space for a long time will tell you this is rare. Google just does not give us warnings like this about much of anything. Why should they? They are a for profit corporation competing against the likes of Bing and Yahoo! That’s why they normally don’t announce significant changes until AFTER they’ve already made them. What makes this warning more ominous? The keywords in their statement: “significant impact.”
This means that at any given point following April 21, your search rankings could sharply decrease if your site is not mobile-friendly. It’s very likely those declines won’t be limited to your rankings on mobile search results, but will leak into how Google ranks you for traditional desktop results too. If your business relies heavily on free traffic from Google organic clicks via search, this should be a wake up call to you. (If your business does not rely on Google search for traffic, what is wrong with you?)
What Do You Do to Prepare for the Inevitable?
It’s vital that you understand how Google rates your web site for mobile-friendliness. And it’s equally vital that your site be built for mobile. Google is a big fan of responsive web design protocols. If your web site is not responsive, if it doesn’t already deliver an alternative mobile version that meets Google’s expectations, then you have just a few weeks to get your site ready.
Check with your webmaster, your web designer or your search engine optimization consultants or team. Get clear right now on where you stand. It might take weeks…it could take months…to get your site mobile-friendly. Depending upon the complexity and platform of your web site, getting mobile-friendly may not be simple, fast or cheap. But you can’t afford not to fix it.
If you need assistance, please let me know. I’m here to help. I’m offering a new service to check your site to ensure it meets Google’s mobile-friendliness standards. You can find out in less than 2 hours for a just $29. You can click MOBILE-FRIENDLY SEO CHECK and pay online with PayPal. We’ll send you a quick report that tells you if you meet the standards. If your site does not, the report will provide details on what’s wrong. If you hire FOSSmg to fix your mobile issues, we’ll refund you the $29 test fee.