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Google releases major mobile search algorithm update

So today's the day. Dubbed by many as “Mobilegeddon”, it's nothing to do with a mobile asteroid tearing towards planet earth, but a change in Google’s search algorithm that has the potential to impact sites across the world, if they’re not “mobile friendly”.

Announced 6 weeks ago on Google Webmasters Blog, Google signalled a major change in how they rank sites to ensure users get the most ‘relevant and timely results’ regardless of where or how that content is presented.

Google themselves say the change is ‘significant’, but one thing that may have been overlooked by many is that this change only affects mobile searches. In other words, if your site isn’t mobile friendly, and a search has been made from a desktop device, then your unlikely to see a great deal of change in your rankings. In addition, although Google has said you’re either mobile friendly or your not, this assessment will at least be made on a page-by-page basis, rather than a domain-wide basis. All that said, if your visitors are searching from a mobile device, then unless you’ve got a mobile friendly site, you will almost certainly see your results slip.

It is of course a little more complicated than this. There are many factors that are taken into account when your ranking in the search engine results pages (SERPs) is determined (page speed for example). Mobile friendliness is just a new measure, but it’s significant because of the meteoric rise in content consumption on mobiles. The change is also global and affects all mobile searches regardless of language, so if you have a large audience overseas, this will likely mean more research to understand the popularity of devices in your chosen countries.

How to find out if you’re affected by this change

The news of this change was posted 6 weeks ago, which is hardly much time to make changes to your site. However, this has been a long time coming, and we know from our own experience, the phrase "responsive web design" is much more widely understood among clients. I think it’s also reasonable to assume it will be followed up with additional, more mobile specific changes in their algorithms to further refine the Google experience.

Here are a few things you can do to quickly understand whether you’re site is affected by this latest Google update.

Mobile Friendly Testing Tool

Google have provided a mobile friendly testing tool which will give you a simple, “yes” or “no”.

Google Mobile Friendly Testing Tool

Google Webmaster Tools

Use the Mobile Usability section within Google Webmaster Tools. This will give some specific details on how and where improvements can be made for mobile visitors to maximise your positioning.

Mobile Usability in Google Webmaster Tools

Do your own search

Search for your site yourself, from a mobile device. Look for the mobile friendly indicator in the search results.

Armitage Online showing as Mobile Friendly in the Google Search Results

Help! What should I do next?

As mobile usage continues to grow and consumers place an ever-growing importance on their mobile devices, we can help in the following areas.

  • Responsive web design. The favoured approach by Google, but also the most cost effective. One website with universally accessible content. We built responsive websites by default to ensure your site is visible to the widest possible audience.
  • Technical support. Understand where there might be bottlenecks in the performance of your site that might deter Google from ranking you above your competitors.
  • Website audits. Identify where you could improve your website and enhance your search positioning.
  • User experience. If visitors are finding your website difficult to use or you’re seeing a high bounce rate in your analytics.

We can also help with your strategy for building a responsive site. If you’re not responsive now, then given Google’s announcements, there are ways in which we can gradually increase your mobile friendly presence until your site’s transition is complete. Contact us for more information on our process, and how we can ensure you continue to attract visitors, regardless of their devices.

Other resources

There is much that has been written on this topic, but here are a few additional links we've seen as we've researched this subject for ourselves.

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Andrew is the founder of multi-award winning A Digital and believes that technology should be an enabler, making a positive impact on the way people live and work.

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