Google’s Mobile Update – What you need to do
Warning: If your site is not mobile-friendly you WILL BLEED mobile traffic!
Losing your mobile traffic is probably the worst thing that can happen to you considering mobile search, on average, accounts for over 50% of search and growing.
If you’re not accessible to mobile you might as well fire half your company right now as you will be missing out on the biggest growing marketing channel online.
It’s really a no-brainer but funnily enough 1000’s of websites are still not compliant! They will regret it when their mobile traffic virtually disappears over night.
We are going to take you step by step through the process of ensuring your site is mobile ready and give you the upper hand in claiming those valuable mobile rankings.
How to deal with the Google Mobile Update
It’s common knowledge now that Google has rolled out one of its biggest updates to date. This update is in order to provide mobile users with a mobile friendly user experiences in their search results from a mobile device – Google notified site owners that their websites should be mobile friendly by the 21st April.
It seems that Responsive Websites, sites that adjust their layouts automatically depending on the device type, are what Google essentially wants, but for the time being, mobi sites and adaptive sites seem to be acceptable.
Although mobi sites might pass the Google Mobile friendly test it is not advised, according to Accrinet.com. Check this article on the pros and cons of building a Mobile Site, Responsive Design or APP.
In case you are unsure of what exactly Responsive Websites are, here is an explanation from Smashing Magazine:
Responsive Web design is the approach that suggests that design and development should respond to the user’s behavior and environment based on screen size, platform and orientation.
The practice consists of a mix of flexible grids and layouts, images and an intelligent use of CSS media queries.
As the user switches from their laptop to iPad, the website should automatically switch to accommodate for resolution, image size and scripting abilities. In other words, the website should have the technology to automatically respond to the user’s preferences.
This would eliminate the need for a different design and development phase for each new gadget on the market.
How a site responds to different screen sizes
Responsive design is, according to Google, “best practice” for mobile optimization and provides many SEO benefits as well as long term compatibility.
Google has provided some advice and tools to help deal with the update:
Hear it (or read) straight from Google as they announce the Big Update!
They don’t provide a ton of information but (here’s a tip) always read between the lines with Google’s announcements. They’re always vague and non specific but you can always pick up a great tip or two.
To check whether you site passes Google’s mobile friendly test:
First step you should take right after reading this is to check IF your site is mobile friendly and passes Google’s Mobile Friendly Test.
This will determine if you’re safe from the nightmarish prospect of losing out on mobile traffic or if you need to haul ass and follow these steps.
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Login to Webmaster tools and check for notifications
Google’s Webmaster Tools should also be your first port of call as any issues with your pages that aren’t compliant will be mailed to you with the details.
Fortunately, Google is alerting webmasters of how mobile friendly their sites are and which pages need attention. So you’re not totally in the dark.
NOTE: Google is applying this on a page by page basis and will apply to ALL languages worldwide.
Below is a Google Hangout by John Mueller (Google’s Webmaster Trends Analyst) discussing what’s happening with the update, what Google is looking for and what to do about it:
This video is an hour long so you may want to book mark this for later.
John revealed the following when asked whether “non-mobile friendly sites would drop out of the results or see a decline in rankings over time”:
While answering the question, John revealed that sites that were seen to be offering a mobile friendly user experience would be given a ranking factor boost, however non-mobile friendly sites would not be simply removed from the search results, simply saying that those that do accommodate for mobile users would be given an additional boost.
So far, it seems, that desktop searches will not be effected by the update.
Follow these steps to ensure you comply and avoid the risk of losing mobile traffic.
1. Do a quick test on how mobile friendly your site is by going here
2. Log in to Google Analytics and determine how much traffic you are getting from mobile search and which pages are bringing in that traffic. Export the list of pages.
3. Log into WMT, check for the notifications and view the report on problematic pages.
4. Prioritize these pages depending on which brings the most traffic (use you exported list from analytics to compare).
5. Check Google’s guide on mobile friendly sites.
6. Find a solution that works for your site and implement your roll out plan.
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Can’t decide which mobile friendly option to choose for your site? Consider this…
If you have a flat HTML or Custom Built site:
Unfortunately if your site is a flat HTML site or doesn’t use a CMS like WordPress then you will need to get a responsive site designed.
This could be very costly to redesign to be responsive, so determine whether its worth the investment or whether to move to a CMS.
The pros of a custom build is more control over elements (particularly conversion elements) and how your content is displayed.
If you use a CMS like WordPress:
If you use a CMS like WordPress then it’s an easy fix. There are quite a few plugins out there that can instantly provide a responsive version of your site when viewing on mobile devices.
Search “best responsive design plugins for “theCMS you use”. You should be provided with many options. Check reviews and determine which one is best for your needs.
Google has suggested http://www.wptouch.com/but its probably wise to do some research first.
Not everyone is happy with the layouts and lack of control over where specific elements are placed. You might lose a bit of the look and feel of your desktop version.
How your content might look on WPTOUCH…
If all of this seems like too much effort or you are not convinced that you will be impacted, consider this:
According to John Mueller’s presentation:
61% of users are unlikely to return to a mobile site they had trouble with.
40% said they would visit a competitor’s mobile site instead.
55% would give up caffeine to keep their phone (this may not be entirely relevant but if people are willing to give up caffeine that says a ton about how much they love their phones)
So be warned it’s not a case of whether you should have a mobile responsive website but WHEN!