How Google's mobile friendly update may impact your website

The tictoc team are currently helping many of our clients get to grips with today’s Google’s mobile update or “mobilegeddon” as it has been terrifyingly labelled. However, rather than the panic the “mobilegeddon” label is likely causing you to experience, take a breath, and let’s look at this sensibly.

What does the update mean?

Google’s announced that, “Starting April 21st, we will be expanding our use of mobile-friendliness as a ranking signal. This change will affect mobile searches in all languages worldwide and will have a significant impact in our search results. Consequently, users will find it easier to get relevant, high-quality search results that are optimized for their devices.”

This means searchers on mobile will see sites with good mobile experiences ranked higher than websites with no mobile or poor mobile sites. Therefore if your website doesn’t have what Google perceives to be a good mobile experience, other websites who have a better mobile experience will rank above yours. 

The update will impact only mobile search results. It will have no impact on your desktop rankings. 

Criteria to be seen as a mobile-friendly website includes text size, site speed, the amount of space between links and whether the content fits across a mobile screen.

The implications of this will be huge to organisations that have a high click-through rate from mobile search results and who gain conversions from these. However, if this isn’t currently a big driver for your business with other factors having a bigger impact on your business success, then it’s less of an immediate concern. 

I say immediate concern as 80% of internet users now own a smartphone and therefore online searching using mobile devices will continue to rise. If you don’t want to lose potential customers, you’ll eventually have to address any mobile issues your website has.

How can I find out the level of mobile traffic to my website?

You can use the Audience > Mobile overview report in google analytics to determine the volume of traffic you get from mobile devices versus desktop. If you have goals implemented you will also be able to see the number of conversions brought from mobile and desktop. 

Given Google’s focus on mobile over the last few years, they have developed some handy tools so you can test how mobile-friendly your website is and where any potential issues lie. 

1. Mobile Friendly tool, rates your website as either mobile-friendly or unfriendly. If it’s the latter you will also get specific recommendations for areas to fix. Some of these might be areas you can fix yourself e.g. image compressions or more integral elements that may require a designer or development team to update.

Essentia detail

2. Google Page Speed Insights tool, gives you a sense of your site’s mobile page speed as a user would experience it and also offers recommendations on areas to fix.

Google Site Speed Test Zara Example detail

3. Google Webmasters tools, is a free service offered by Google that helps you monitor and maintain your site's presence in Google Search results. In terms of the update, the Search Traffic>Mobile Usability report highlights any mobile usability issues such as the use of Flash, improperly sized content, and touch elements that are too close together. 

Google Webmaster Tools original

You can also use the Crawl Errors report and select the Smartphone tab to identify if Google’s smartphone crawler has found any problems when crawling your site. E.G. Are you blocking important areas of your sites that should be crawled and indexed instead?

In understanding how your website currently performs on mobile and the level of traffic you receive from mobile devices, you can better assess how the update is likely to impact your website and what actions you need to take. 

For some organisations, this might mean small tweaks to your site than you can complete internally or for others it might mean a brand new website, such as a responsive site that provides users with the same experience on mobile as they would get on desktop. Responsive websites are a good option to future proof your website not only for mobile updates but the introduction of new device sizes or browsers.

It’s not just about mobile

Mobile-friendliness is only one of Google’s ranking factors - don’t forget that Google is highly focused on the relevancy of the content your website serves in response to users search queries. Therefore, if you create highly relevant content and present it in a way that Google can easily crawl you will still have the opportunity to rank in Google organic search.

You should also think about the long-term role of your website.  Does your website currently bring the returns it needs to? Does it portray your brand effectively? Outside of mobile, what is the user experience like - does it provide users with an easy way to navigate your website and give them the content they need? The time invested in answering these questions will save you money and headache down the line.

If you’re still feeling overwhelmed by “mobilegeddon” or are unsure how to put into action the suggestions above, get in touch

Search Engine Land have also developed an excellent list of FAQs about the update.