Richard Whitehouse, head of digital at leading digital marketing agency Cube3, discusses how to be prepared for Google’s mobile-friendly deadline and the risks your bar might face if it isn’t ready.
For many April 21 is just a day in the diary, a Tuesday that will become just another working day. However if your business is based online or you rely on your website for business opportunities, client support and services, April 21 needs to be a big deal.
Google recently announced that this date will be the deadline for all businesses and organisations across the world to ensure that their website is mobile friendly for the user. The search engine will be releasing its new algorithm this April that will use mobile friendliness as a key factor when ranking every page on a company’s site.
Even though Google has previously distinguished mobile use as a ranking signal, this new process will have a significant impact on all search results, meaning that if a site is better optimised for mobile devices, the site will be higher ranked than other non-optimised sites. In other words, if your website is not prepared and ready by the April 21 deadline, Google will demote your site in search results, losing you rankings, traffic, and in turn your customer base.
Mobile traffic now makes up around 30% of all search access and results on the web, with many leisure, entertainment and news sites seeing most of their traffic coming from mobile use. It was the next logical step for Google to put more emphasis and importance on mobile strategy, especially as smartphone penetration is to hit 70% in the next two or three years.
Mobile friendliness has always been part of the ranking signals. However, it has never been a definitive and conclusive measurement tool. Therefore, many businesses and organisations have not focused their attention, time and budgets on optimising their sites to be mobile for the user. Hence why so many are now working tirelessly with a dedicated digital team to ensure they meet this impending deadline.
This update will mean that the customer will find it easier and more efficient to get relevant and insightful search results, which are completely optimized for all their devices.
The new algorithm is set to be one of the most influential and impactful yet, with Google’s Zineb Ait Bahajji, a member of the Webmaster Trends team, saying that this new process will have more impact on search engine results that any other programme to come from Google over the past decade.
Many organisations have already guaranteed and optimised their sites for mobile use, so for these organisations, you can breathe easy. For those who have put their mobile strategy on the back burner, this is now the crucial time to get it sorted and ensure all your previous hard work on your visibility in search results doesn’t go down the drain.
The main issue if people miss the deadline is that your mobile search rankings could essentially disappear, whilst the new algorithm will focus on individual pages. It’s essential all pages on a website are mobile optimised. Not being visible quite simply means that when a potential client or business opportunity searches for your relevant services, your competitor who has spent the time organising and implementing their mobile strategy will show up in the search results, leading to the customer taking their business elsewhere.
“Search and visibility is not only key for customer acquisition for your business, but it’s also vital for retaining your existing customer base. Using a search engine to find a website is now default behaviour, especially in the business-to-consumer world. We all do it, it’s instant, it’s convenient and it’s absolutely expected across all websites for 2015.
Your first step is to check to see if your website is mobile friendly. You can do this by testing your website using Google’s Mobile-Friendly Test page at https://www.google.com/webmasters/tools/mobile-friendly/.
If you are not mobile friendly, find the time and budget to choose a specialist with relevant mobile web development skills and experience. There are several different implementations to consider so it’s essential you work with an expert who is able to deliver on everything from separate mobile websites to mobile-first and fully responsive builds.
Ask for evidence of both mobile-friendly and speed-optimised websites. Your own site needs a balance between the two of these factors as page speed is a factor in both search rank and user experience.
Work with your specialist to devise a mobile strategy that works for your circumstances, tailored to your services and requirements. Every client and website is different so creating the correct mobile strategy is not a case of one size fits all.
You need to identify quick wins such as targeting the high-traffic areas of your website.
Overall you need to ensure that mobile and search are considered in your long-term digital strategy and not just a quick fix to sort by April 21.
April 21 is not far away so it’s crucial that every website it prepped and ready for this impending deadline. The truth of the matter is that none of us know how big this impact will be, however what is clear is it is not worth the risk of missing this crucial date.