There is less than a month until Google’s ‘mobile friendly’ algorithm update officially comes into force. I say officially as it is very likely that Google has been using mobile friendliness as a ranking indicator for some time.
However, from 21 April, Google will start to label sites that are mobile-friendly, and use that to determine whether a website should rank higher in search results. This algorithm is likely to have a huge impact on mobile search results and understandably, this is making webmasters and businesses anxious.
This is especially worrying for small businesses as they are less likely to have a team of skilled web developers, web designers and digital marketing specialists to call on. With that in mind, we’ve put together some straightforward guidance on how to prepare for this algorithm change.
Don’t give money to your competitors
Anything that makes it hard for a visitor to complete an action or browse your website on a mobile device is a problem. Not just in terms of this algorithm change, but also in terms of your own conversion rates and visitor engagement levels.
The general rule of thumb when it comes to mobile is to make it as easy as possible for your visitors to browse and interact with your site on a mobile device. Go one step further and aim provide a delightful customer experience – thereby creating a competitive advantage over your competitors. If you frustrate a visitor, they will bounce off and give their money to a competitor with a more user friendly site.
Some obvious things to watch out for are:
- Font that is too small and difficult to read
- Excessive requirement to pinch the screen or zoom in to view content
- Phone numbers embedded in images or that cannot be dialled with one click (annoying!)
- Complicated navigation with multiple sub-navigational dropdowns
- Touch elements too close (making it difficult to click on the correct link for example)
- Site speed is crucial when it comes to mobile – 57% will bounce if they have to wait more than 3 seconds. The culprit here is often bloated background images. Videos are engaging but heavy, so use sparingly – 15 to 30 second intro clips are best.
Use Google’s free tools and guidance
Google has created a suite of helpful advice and tools to improve your website’s user experience on mobile devices.
Read Google’s Mobile Guidelines >
Google Webmaster Tools is a good first port of call to check how your website is performing in natural search. If you haven’t verified your site in GWT yet, I’d recommend you do so now and then connect it to your Google Analytics account. Once your site is verified in Google Webmaster Tools, you’ll be able to see detailed information about how search engines view and rank your website, including on a mobile.
Use Google’s Mobile Usability Reports in Google Webmaster Tools >
Google’s free mobile friendly testing tool tell you in a matter of seconds whether your website is mobile friendly or not. Head there now to see where you stand.
Try the Mobile friendly testing tool >
Even if your site isn’t mobile friendly – don’t panic. It may not be a case of a complete redesign. If Google finds your site could do with improvements, it will point you towards step by step guidance for many of the main website platforms including WordPress, Joomla and Drupal.
Keeping up to date with Google’s constant algorithm updates is a nightmare task, especially if it’s not your area of expertise. Don’t worry about the penguins, pandas or pirates too much – focus on providing a good user experience to your customers and website visitors and Google will continue to send relevant people your way.