Google has announced the release of a new algorithm for search engine queries. The update is scheduled to take place on April 21, 2015 and will generate new rankings for websites based on mobile-friendliness. With an increasing number of users browsing the Internet via mobile device (a whopping 50% of all search queries come from smartphones), it’s no surprise that Google has changed their formula and adapted to the needs of their users. Although we don’t know the extent to which the algorithm will affect rankings, Google has said the change will cause “significant impact” on search results. Keep in mind that the update will only affect mobile search results conducted via smartphone or tablet, and will not influence searches conducted on a desktop computer or laptop. But what does this mean for your website? Basically, if you haven’t already formatted your website to be easily accessible via smartphone, you will find yourself being ranked lower than websites who made the effort to strategically configure their pages for modern devices. Google’s new algorithm means that websites perfected for smartphone use will get priority ranking. It’s Google’s answer to the huge wave of individuals turning to their phones for basic Internet browsing purposes. If your website isn’t up to par, don’t fret – there’s still some time left before the update for you to optimize your website for mobile usability. Here’s a few pointers you should keep in mind before the update:
- A recent buzzword that marketers should familiarize themselves with is responsive web design, or RWD. It is essentially an approach to web design that makes your site look great and work great at any screen size – meaning it will be easily accessible for any user whether they are using a desktop, tablet, or cell phone. It is “responsive” to the user’s device, hence the name. Nowadays, any developer can tell you that web design is pretty much synonymous with RWD. Google’s recent announcement for the new update has pretty much solidified the fact that RWD is here to stay.
- If you aren’t interested in completely reformatting your website for RWD, another option is building a separate mobile website specifically for mobile users. Although it can offer a cheaper alternative to RWD, you also should keep in mind that it may incur higher costs in the long run because you will have to maintain two websites instead of one.
- Use Google’s mobile-friendly test to see how your website looks on a phone or tablet! If it looks like your website doesn’t stack up, Google has provided a starter kit to guide you through the process of formatting and reconfiguring your website for optimized rankings. They have even included a guide to the most common mobile design mistakes, and how to avoid them as well as an FAQ.
- Take some time to navigate your website through a tablet or phone. Pretend you are a potential consumer. Is your text easy to read? Do you have to scroll side-to-side simply to read a sentence? View every page of your site and make sure every link works. Consider the differences between navigating your site via desktop screen versus tablet. A 1000 word essay on your website may look impressive from a desktop, but it will look daunting and overwhelming for a mobile user.
- Consider the main goals of your website. If you have an online store, can a customer easily purchase items from their phone? How are advertisements displayed on a computer monitor versus a cellphone screen? Would your website benefit from a custom app? Lastly, contact information should be easily accessible. For example, a map of your office location can include a link to the Google Maps app, with specified directions based on your phone’s GPS.
With April 21 coming up just around the corner, we recommend you begin taking steps ASAP to keep your website highly ranked. Smartphones have completely revolutionized consumer behavior, and content marketers need to pay attention! 94% of smartphone users in the US look up local information with the help of their device, and many smartphone users make purchases online or read reviews about a product before purchase. However, a poorly-configured website can leave mobile users frustrated and make them more likely to abandon the site. A design that is not mobile-friendly leaves users pinching and zooming in to the screen in order to read the text, whereas one optimized for mobile use can seamlessly present information, links, and photos. Developing websites for multi-device capability is going to exponentially increase your accessibility, and with smartphone usage only increasing, it’s definitely something to put on your to-do list for this upcoming year. Older websites who haven’t updated their web design are likely to experience a drop in ranking and, consequently, lose plenty of traffic after April 21; one should take initiative now to develop a highly flexible and rapidly accessible site. Even without Google’s new SEO algorithm in place, a mobile-friendly website can still help increase your web traffic tenfold. Pew Research reports nearly 64% of US adults own a smartphone in 2015, which is a 35% increase from 2011. New phone apps are being developed every day, and many smartphone users use their handheld devices for shopping, navigation, social media, and browsing the Internet. If your business has any intention of remaining a viable competitor, then updating your website to become mobile-accessible is a no-brainer.