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The Google Mobile-Friendly Algorithm Update – Mobilegeddon?

On the 21st of April, Google began rolling out a new mobile-friendly ranking algorithm, designed to boost the rankings of mobile friendly pages in mobile search results. Whilst this only affects mobile search results, not desktop, over time this algorithm is expected to have as big an effect, if not more so, than Panda and Penguin, given that more than 50% of searches are now conducted on mobile phones.

The idea of the mobile-friendly update is to provide searchers with high quality and relevant results that they can easily read on a mobile device without having to zoom in and change the size of the text, all tap targets and menus are appropriately spaced for mobile use, and pages avoid the need for horizontal scrolling and any unplayable content. This kind of website is called a ‘responsive website’, meaning that the site will automatically re-size to suit the device that it is viewed on. Essentially, the mobile-friendly update is designed to create a better search experience for mobile users.

What does the mobile-friendly ranking algorithm affect?

  • The update applies to individual website pages, as opposed to full websites – even if a website is not fully mobile-friendly, certain mobile friendly pages may rank well
  • It only affects search rankings on mobile devices – Desktop search is not affected at all by this algorithm update
  • It affects search results in all languages – the update is global, affecting website pages throughout the world

mobile-friendly updateIs my website mobile-friendly?

The easiest way to establish whether your website has good usability is by submitting your URL to the Google Mobile-Friendly Test. If the test finds that your website isn’t mobile-friendly, it gives you some useful tips to optimise your website for mobile search.

For more information, when logged into Google Webmaster Tools, you can view your Mobile Usability Report – this shows you any issues that the specific pages on your website may have. If you have access to Webmaster Tools and your site isn’t fully mobile-friendly, there is a good chance that you will have been sent a notification telling you that your site doesn’t meet the requirements of the mobile-friendly update.

How might the mobile-friendly update affect small businesses?

If you are a small business owner and your website isn’t fully mobile-friendly, it is likely that you will see a hit to your rankings on mobile searches and as a result, you will see a drop in visits. As with desktop search, around 85% of users will drop off search after scrolling the first page of Google SERPS. By dropping in rank, you lose organic visibility and visitors through mobile search.

If the mobile-friendly update does not have an immediate effect on your rankings, it is important to remember that without providing good mobile usability, it is likely that visitors will be unimpressed with the poor user experience, leading to them spending less time on site, visiting fewer pages and your bounce rate increasing.

In turn this could lead to fewer sales and conversions.

Whilst this sounds alarming, it is important not to panic. Here are some steps that you can take to improve the mobile usability of your website:

  • Make sure all text on site is big enough to read on a mobile device – understandably, mobile phone screens are usually much smaller than a desktop computer screen, so a site that is designed specifically for desktop use is likely to be very hard to read on a mobile screen. With a responsive website design, the text should automatically re-size to suit the screen and provide a good user experience
  • Make sure content on your site isn’t wider than the screen it is displayed on – if the layout of your website goes wider than most mobile phone screens, leading the user to scroll left and right, this is not a good user experience
  • Make sure all links and navigation options are well spaced – no matter how dainty your fingers are, if a website isn’t designed for mobile user, it is likely that you will hit the wrong link and be navigated to the wrong place. All links should be well spaced out to allow all users to navigate to where they want to go

If you are unsure about how to go about improving the mobile-usability of your website, or have any queries about the mobile-friendly ranking algorithm, please call SEO it Right on 0121 308 0219 and our team will be happy to assist you.

Rob Edwards