Gavin Hirst - Monday 23rd March 2015

Are you ready for the launch of Google’s mobile-friendly algorithm? It’s going to be bigger than Penguin or Panda

We all know it’s coming. Google announced a while back that they will be launching a new mobile-friendly algorithm on 21 April this year but what does that mean for your website and your rankings?

Well, this week Barry Schwartz from Search Engine Land reported that according to Google’s Zineb Ait Bahajji speaking at SMX Munich, this algorithm update will impact more sites that their Penguin or Panda algorithms. Those algorithms affected around 4% and 12% of English queries respectively so if what Zineb is saying is true, then we can expect this algorithm update to have a significant impact on those site that are not mobile-friendly.

Is your site mobile responsive?

It is believed that about 50% of searches on Google are carried out on a mobile device. That is why Google are releasing this new algorithm and that is why it is crucial that your website is mobile-friendly before the roll out of their latest algorithm, otherwise you are going to find yourself scrambling to try and regain your rankings which could take a lot of time depending on how often Google plan to update the new algorithm.

Having a mobile-friendly site should not be something that you are doing simply for the algorithm (although to do need to get it done for the algorithm). Given the volume of people searching and browsing websites on a mobile device, having a site that is either mobile responsive or mobile specific should have been part of your strategy for some time now. You should be providing the best possible user-experience for customers no matter what device they are using and that means looking at each device and optimising your content specifically for that device.

How do I know if my site is mobile-friendly?

Well, hopefully this will be pretty obvious – how easy is your website to use on a mobile device? If the answer is easy, then you should be all good but there are a couple of ways to check how Google sees your site on a mobile and whether crucially they think it is friendly. If you have to pinch and zoom, or the links on the site are hard to click because they are too small or too close together, chances are you have some work to do and if your site looks the same on mobile as it does on desktop only smaller, you definitely have work to do. To check whether your site is friendly, simple go to Google and do a search for your company. When you get the results in the search results page, you should see the words ‘Mobile-Friendly’ next to your site as you do with our site below:

Screenshot of a Google results page showing the Digital Hothouse website and the mobile friendly tag

This lets you know that Google thinks your site is mobile-friendly (don’t confuse this with being mobile optimised though – this just means that it is accessible on a mobile device). To really delve into how Google sees your site on a mobile use their Mobile-Friendly Test which will give you some useful tips on optimising your pages for mobile devices

What if my site is not mobile-friendly?

Well, if that’s the case, you have about a month to get it sorted. This can be done in two ways; you either need to develop a site that is responsive i.e. same content which responds in the way that it is displayed to the device that it is being displayed on. Number two is to design a mobile specific site which presents different content on a mobile to a desktop which is tailored to the audience (often this will be a slimmed down version of the main site with the option to click through to view content on the main site). Trademe for example use this very well – the way they present their information on a mobile device is very different to their desktop site and this has been tailored rather like their app for use on a mobile device.

Screenshot of the search results page for a mobiel specific site showing the m. url

There is no hard and fast rule for what you should or shouldn’t do. For many, a responsive site is the easiest solution as you only end up with one site to manage which works across all devices. For others, a mobile specific site, which needs separately maintaining works well as they do not want to present all the information from their desktop site to mobile users.

The best thing to do if you have any concerns about your site is to seek advice from a professional web design or SEO agency who will be able to advise on the best solution to suit your business. Don’t delay though…time is fast running out and even a month to potentially develop a whole new site is cutting it fine – seek help today!

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