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What You Need to Know about the Google Mobile-Friendly Update

We are currently two weeks away from the new Google mobile-friendly update due to launch April 21, and everyone is speculating what this is going to mean for all parties concerned.  Specifically, people are speculating over how significantly things will change as a result of the update.  It’s already predicted to be a bigger to-do than both the Google Panda and the Google Penguin updates (but how much bigger and in what ways?).

As per Google, the main things that are changing are that Google’s algorithm will now include mobile-friendliness as a ranking signal, which will make a huge (and by “huge”, I mean “all of the”) difference in terms of mobile site search results.  (Side bar: Just for fun, in case you have the inclination to get technical and to get a better idea of Google’s algorithm, this list of 200 of the ranking factors Google uses for their algorithm was recently compiled and published.)

Why is Google Changing Things?

The rationale behind the update is that users are going increasingly mobile for all web activities from e-mail, to shopping, to banking, to web surfing, etc.  Some studies yield that over half (61%) of users will not go back to a mobile site that was hard to use on their mobile device. 

Given that Google considers it to have a robust level of expertise in understanding what mobile users want, the obvious solution was a new mobile-friendly algorithm (to over-simplify).  Things users look for in a mobile-friendly website include:

·         Proper-sized, readable fonts

·         Easy navigation

·         Convenient linking / browsing

·         Lack of error-messaging

The list of features in a mobile-friendly site go on; ultimately, a mobile-friendly site is as easy to coordinate as a desktop website.

Changes to Note

Currently, as noted, the significance and the exact terms of the impact of the latest Google update are subject to speculation (for example, it’s predicted that non-optimized mobile pages will essentially “drop off”).  That said, there are a few things that can be claimed with greater certainty:

·         Pages, Not Sites: This is good news for those who have some web pages optimized for mobile as the algorithm looks at pages individually, not sites as a whole.  This means that a site with some mobile-optimized pages will be promoted.

·         Real-Time Operation: As sites are updated, Google picks it up, which means that sites that aren’t ready by April 21 can get looped in once they are ready.

·         Desktop / Mobile Blending: It seems that desktop and mobile ranking signals will mix.

·         App Indexing: The connection between mobile apps and the mobile web search will be strengthened to the point of eliminating differentiation.

Determining if Your Site is Mobile-Friendly

For those who aren’t sure where their site stands in terms of mobile-friendliness, it’s rather easy to determine readiness.

·         Test the site: First, you can test your site.  There’s a Mobile-Friendly Test on the Google Developer’s page.  You simply enter your webpage URL and let nature (Google) take care of the rest.  If you have less-than-mobile-friendly results, a link to Google’s blog on finding mobile-friendly pages is provided.  

·         Take the course: Google also has a course for getting the hang of establishing a site that is also mobile-friendly that will function well with Google’s algorithm.  

·         Search for the site on your phone: You may have already noticed, but Google actually includes a mobile-friendly label on web pages searched on your phone.  If you haven’t already noticed, do a quick Google search.  Since Google’s test (first bullet point) isn’t infallible, this is a decent second testing measure to see if your site truly ranks as mobile-friendly according to Google.

The Take Away

So, let’s review the facts for the Google mobile-friendly algorithm update:

·         When: April 21 (dress appropriately…I suppose in something digitally-inspired or like a giant smartphone?) and anytime thereafter as things are updated in real-time

·         Where: The Internet, more specifically, on mobile-devices

·         Who: Everyone but especially those who do not have mobile-friendly website

·         What: Google’s new algorithm will favor mobile-friendly pages and sites (specifically, pages).  The silver lining for those who are not prepared is that if you have a site that is optimized for mobile, it could be favored by the algorithm; the entire site won’t be, but at least it’s better than being excluded entirely.  Further, for those who are partially ready (i.e., have one or two pages on a site mobile-friendly), then it buys a little time.

·         Why: As has been noted in the past, mobile devices play a huge role in technology and content consumption; this is just Google’s very much-anticipated move toward capitalizing on that already significant usage (statistics such as the fact that as much as 70% of e-mail is opened on a mobile device supports these claims).   

Thus, if you aren’t ready by April 21, the world won’t come to an end, but at the same time, you won’t be benefiting; further, your site will be falling out of the loop.  Becoming mobile-friendly is going to essential for success and survival. 

Need help making your site mobile-friendly, or just have questions about the whole process in general? We're here to help. Just call The Storyteller Agency. We're here to help tell your story and make sure it's optimized properly so your audience never misses a word.