In many ways, Google has led the charge in the mobile revolution. Despite already being the world’s largest mobile search provider as well as boasting the largest mobile app store, the company is always looking for ways to revamp and improve its mobile positioning.
In late February, Google announced that it will be using mobile-friendly factors in its mobile search algorithm. Last month, Google’s Webmaster Central blog reported that this algorithm update will have a significant impact on any company’s search results.
Starting April 21st, Google will implement an algorithm designed to raise mobile-friendly websites in Google desktop and mobile search results. By using mobile usability as a ranking signal, users around the globe will have more convenient access to high quality search results that are optimized for any device they may be using. Any company that does not comply with these new guidelines risks becoming virtually undetected by someone searching from any mobile device.
One interesting feature of this impending update is that it will analyze mobile compatibility on a page-by-page basis, rather than a website-wide basis. As Google’s Gary Illyes pointed out, the updated algorithm will sort through the pages of a website and promote only those that meet the mobile friendly criteria. Seeing that many websites have specialized pages that would be hard to convert into mobile-friendly, Google will not penalize the sites that are not 100 percent digitally optimized. Some sites will face these kinds of issues, but for the most part, well designed websites are entirely mobile friendly or not.
How can you tell if your website is mobile-friendly?
Head to Google’s Mobile-Friendly Test to test your site against Google’s Best Practices. Although this tool exhibits flaws that could possibly lead to false positive and negative results, it is generally an accepted measure of a site’s mobile performance.
At the very least, an ecommerce site that yields a positive result from this test will retain its mobile search positioning. If sites currently ranked ahead of yours are not considered mobile friendly once the new update hits, it is highly likely that your site will improve upon its mobile ranking. This new update may prove to be a cautionary tale to the companies that refuse to conform to Google’s new standards.
A negative response on the Mobile-Friendly Test will have an adverse effect on a company’s search visibility. Although it is not fair to speculate exactly how hard a non-mobile friendly site will be hit by this upcoming update until it is released, some have gone so far as to suggest that non-optimized pages will virtually drop from mobile rankings and possibly desktop rankings.
According to a Process Peak study discussed during the 2015 International Franchise Association Convention, 45 percent of brands do not have a mobile-friendly website. The study also reported that 83 percent of franchises do not have mobile-friendly franchise information sites.
A tremendous number of companies are unprepared for Google’s upcoming mobile search algorithm update, giving those who are readily equipped an opportunity to slip in and attract more quality leads based off their new found search engine presence.
How to prepare for Google’s upcoming update:
1. Assess and Boost Your Mobile Web Optimization Status
Make sure your site is mobile-friendly by using the Google Mobile-Friendly Test. A responsive design guarantees site optimization across all devices and is a key factor to boosting site visibility. The Google Webmaster Tools mobile usability report can help by highlighting issues such as the use of Flash content, missing viewports, tiny fonts, and identifying clickable links or buttons that are too close to one another.
2. Identify Your Mobile Web Search Visibility and Traffic Behavior
Learn how the mobile search result visibility of your site compares to that of your competitors by using the Search Queries page in Google Webmaster Tools. This page shows the Google Web Search queries that have returned URLs from your site as well as provides the pages on your site that were seen most often in search results. You can use the Search Queries data to compare desktop and mobile versions of your site.
3. Closely Monitor Your Mobile Web Search Performance
There are many services, like SEMrush and SearchMetrics, that help discover keywords for which your mobile search competitors are ranking. Once you have pulled together these key phrases, you must perform keyword research with the Google Keyword Planner in order to get historical statistics and traffic forecasts. These statistics help companies determine which keywords to use for a campaign as well as get an idea of how a list of keywords might perform by predicting both click and conversion rates.
As April 21st quickly approaches, Google’s algorithm revision for mobile search results looms larger and larger. Companies that possess a mobile friendly sites are safe for now and will, at the very least, maintain its search positioning. For those that do not, the scramble is officially on. These companies run the risk of being dropped into virtual obscurity, essentially becoming unnoticeable to users searching from mobile devices. The upcoming algorithm update from Google further solidifies the growing necessity for a robust mobile strategy.