Google Mobile Search Algorithm Update

Google Mobile Search Algorithm Update

Google recently announced a change to its mobile search algorithm that affects ALL websites, not just mobile sites:

Essentially, what it means is that, from April 21st this year, Google will be downgrading sites in the search results of mobile devices (ie anyone searching Google on a mobile phone), if they are not “mobile friendly”. And, consequentially, upgrading sites in the search results of mobile devices that are “mobile friendly”.

So if your site isn’t suitable – in Google’s opinion – to be viewed on a mobile device, you will have no chance of your site appearing in Google’s search results on mobile devices. Whilst you may think this isn’t so important for you, as most of your traffic comes from conventional desktop / laptop machines, you should bear in mind that the definition of a “mobile device” will include tablets – something that more and more people are using for their general access to the internet. Plus, accessing the internet on a mobile phone is an increasing share of all internet traffic, so you will be leaving a large proportion of internet users out of your potential market if you don’t have a “mobile friendly site”.

How do I Know if my Site is Mobile Friendly?

Google have provided an online tool for checking your site to determine how mobile friendly it is:

They have also produced a set of guidelines that you should understand in order to make sure your site passes their test:

As well as providing for different screen sizes, it should be noted that their guidelines include such issues as ensuring the clickable links are not too close together.

Mobile Version of Site or Responsive Design?

There are currently 2 options for ensuring your site is mobile friendly:

1) Set up a separate mobile version of the site, with device recognition capability so the correct version of the site is sent to the correct device. (ie people viewing on a desktop PC will see the “normal” version of the site, people viewing on a tablet or a mobile phone will see the “mobile” version of the site).

2) Make the site “responsive”, such that it changes design and layout based on the device being used to view it. (The page you’re currently reading now is “responsive”, as it adjusts itself to fit the screen size you’re using, rather than sending you to a separate mobile version).

My Recommendation

Whilst Google is currently saying it is fine to have 2 versions of your site aimed at different devices, my recommendation is that you aim for your site being responsive, rather than having different versions.

My reasoning is based on years of experience with Google and the fact that they are generally opposed to having different versions of the same site in their index.

Certainly, if you don’t wish to make your site fully responsive just yet – for reasons of eg budget, future redesign schedule – then you should be OK in the short term to simply have a mobile version of the site that works alongside the main site.

However, for long term peace of mind, I’d definitely recommend making your site responsive, in order to pre-empt the likely negative effect on all  rankings (mobile and non-mobile) that I predict for the future for non-responsive sites.

One thing to bear in mind here is that, not only will your site need to adjust its layout to fit the smaller device screens, it should also make sense from a marketing design point of view – ie you should ensure your name, contact details, main sales message etc are visible on the home screen for anyone viewing your site, rather than being shunted away as a result of the responsive design parameters.

Get in touch to see how I can help optimise your website in line with the updated algorithm – Contact

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