Google Mobile Update: Is your site ready for the mobile revolution?

Paul Spreadbury, Operations Director for Organic Performance at MEC UK, takes a look at the latest Google mobile update, reviews what has been confirmed so far and what action can be taken.

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Today is the day that Google rolls out its mobile update across the UK. This important update will expand the use of mobile friendliness as a ranking signal in the mobile search results. In other words, sites which are not deemed mobile friendly could see their mobile rankings and mobile traffic drop.

What has been confirmed so far?

So far the following has been confirmed by Google

  • The algorithm update will start rolling out on April 21st and will take a few days to a week to roll-out completely and globally.
  • Web pages are either mobile-friendly or not, there are no degrees of mobile-friendliness in this algorithm.
  • Google has said that it will affect more search queries than Panda or Penguin
  • Google is treating this as a big deal, more so than we have seen for pretty much any update in recent times.

How big is the update and what could the impact be?

The update means that pages which are not mobile friendly will not rank as well in mobile search results for non-branded search terms compared to their desktop rankings.  Pages that are mobile friendly will do better, pushing the pages that are mobile unfriendly further down the SERPS.

Google’s was quoted as saying that the mobile-friendly ranking algorithm will have more of an impact on Google’s search results than previous large updates such as Panda and Penguin. And with an average of over 50% of all traffic to web-sites coming from mobile devices, we are treating this as a big deal.

How can I monitor performance from mobile?

In order to evaluate and understand the impact of this update it is vital you track both mobile traffic and mobile rankings. There are many different ways of achieving this dependent on the tracking software your website uses

There are also a number of great tools that can estimate mobile VS desktop visibility without access to specific tracking software. These tools allow us to quickly analyze issues with mobile traffic to see whether a websites traffic has been affected by this Google update. Searchmetrics is one of the main tools that offers this functionality.

How can you test if your site is mobile friendly?

To test whether your site is mobile friendly Google has provided the following tools

  • The fastest way to see if your web pages are mobile-friendly is to see if you have the mobile-friendly label in the live mobile search results now.
  • To test whether your pages are mobile friendly you can use their mobile-friendly testing tool, which should match the live Google search results
  • You can use Webmaster Tools to get a full list of mobile usability issues across a verified site using the Mobile Usability Report.

What actions should I take if my site is not mobile friendly?

If your site fails the mobile friendly test you will need to work closely with your technical and user experience teams to ensure all your web pages comply to Google’s mobile standards. There are many different ways to achieve this including having a separate mobile site or building a mobile responsive site. Google’s preference is to develop a mobile responsive site that adapts the display to suit different mobile devices.

However as some sites can vary wildly in the way they are set up it is important to tailor recommendations to your own particular circumstances.

Conclusion

Google’s objective behind the update is to provide the best websites for consumers using their search engine. Google understand that taking users to a website where content is difficult to use and read will ultimately lead to a poor user experience and less traffic for the search giant.

With mobile traffic for most sites currently between 40% and 60%,  and the number of smartphones set to surpass 2 billion by 2016 the shift to mobile cannot be ignored and is already having an impact on all businesses and brands no matter how big or small.

Is your site ready for the mobile revolution?

If you’d like to discuss the update further with Paul he can be contacted through the @MECUK Twitter handle