Defying Mobilegeddon: Tips for marketers on beating Google’s new algorithm

In the first of a three-part series looking at Google’s recent changes to its mobile search algorithm, Netbiscuits CEO Daniel Weisbeck explores how digital marketers can make some quick changes to get back onside and make sure they don’t fall down the search rankings.

It was dubbed ‘Mobilegeddon’ by many journalists and media commentators; and, while Google’s mobile search algorithm change on 21st April hasn’t resulted in any Millennium Bug-esque instances of panic, the true impact will only start to become apparent over the coming weeks and months. If you missed it, Google has changed the way it ranks web pages on its search engine; and, rather than relying purely on businesses reacting to its search ranking rules via SEO, as a way of ranking relevancy, Google will now prioritise websites that have been optimised for mobile devices, meaning consumers will see those sites before any others when conducting a search online. As Gartner analyst Whit Andrews said recently: “Availability is part of relevancy. A lot of people aren’t going to think something is relevant if they can’t get it to appear on their iPhone.”

What on earth does that even mean? A great question, and we’ll look to answer that and more in this short, yet perfectly formed, article.

What does mobile ready or mobile optimised mean?

Google’s new algorithm will scan each web page on your site, testing load times, responsive design elements, and mobile best practice. It will be testing if text can be read without the need for zooming, does content fit the screen perfectly without scrolling or zooming, and even are links spaced adequately across the page to avoid users clicking the wrong ones. In addition, Flash usage is going to become an even bigger problem. It is not commonly supported on mobile devices and Google will also penalise its use in search engine rankings. All these issues are common bug bears, and consumers are rubbing their hands with glee at the thought of these flaws being punished by the world’s largest search engine. Not such good news for businesses though.

How do I know if I’m about to be relegated down the Google search page rankings?

Thankfully, Google has created a tool to help marketers and developers understand if their website is mobile ready. As it stands, the test is PASS/FAIL, for example, there is no middle ground. Your website is either mobile friendly or it isn’t. Google may introduce varying degrees of mobile friendliness in future, but right now it’s all or nothing if you want to maintain your place in the line.

If my site is not mobile-optimised, will this also affect how my desktop is ranked by Google?

Google has stated categorically that this will not, but that doesn’t mean it won’t in the future. Above all else, it´s about optimizing mobile searches, so that people who search from mobile devices can be sure that they get a good experience when opening a link in Google search results. It’s also worth mentioning that at this point, searches on tablet devices will not be affected, but this will almost certainly be just around the corner, so we recommend planning for that now. We believe that taking a ‘pass the test’ mentality is a bad thing for marketers to do. It’s the equivalent of cramming at the last minute to get through an exam, without giving yourself the knowledge to succeed beyond that. So, if you check the box that says ‘mobile friendly’ but your bounce rate is up and users are not engaging with your content, then what does it matter? The fact you are on the first page of Google’s search engine is secondary to the fact that nobody is converting on your website.

Help! No really, what can I do to tackle this problem?

First of all, it’s worth saying that making your website mobile friendly, will not push you up the search rankings. This is not a replacement for SEO, it is simply a way of preserving your rank and ensuring other mobile-optimised websites do not overtake you. You have probably worked hard to optimise your website via keywords and SEO, and Google’s original methodology still remains. But if you want to protect that investment then you should start by thinking about how you can optimise your pages for mobile. Depending on the resources you have available and the level of sophistication you require, there are a few possible solutions, which we will explore in our next article.

Want more top tips for increasing mobile web engagement on via mobile analytics? Here you go!

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