Is Your Site Ready for Google on April 21st? #Mobile-Friendly

google mobile update

If you’re a website owner you will (hopefully) be aware of the up coming changes that Google will be making to their algorithm on 21st of this month by expanding their use of mobile-friendliness as a ranking signal in mobile search results.

This is great news for users making mobile searches, but not so great for owners of non-mobile-friendly websites. The final countdown is on!

As yet it is unclear just how much impact the new update will have on search rankings, although Zineb Ait Bahajji from Google’s Webmaster Trends team is quoted at SMX Munich as saying it will impact more sites than the Panda and Penguin updates.

So why the mobile-friendly update, and why now?

This won’t be the first mobile-focussed update to Google’s algorithm although it is likely to be ‘the big one’, dubbed by many in the industry as ‘mobilegeddon’!

Google has been advocating the use of mobile-friendly sites for a while now through smaller updates and guidance releases. Last year it started labelling sites optimised for mobile as ‘mobile-friendly’ to mobile search results as shown below:

mobile friendly search

Google gave advanced warning in February about the upcoming update to improve searcher experience on mobile devices stating:

“As more people use mobile devices to access the internet, our algorithms have to adapt to these usage patterns.”

In other words Google is helping prevent the frustration faced by mobile searchers when experiencing sites with a poor mobile experience.

If you don’t know if Google sees your website as being mobile-friendly or not just type your site URL into Google’s simple Mobile-Friendly test.

How can I make my site mobile-friendly?

There are three main approaches to making your site mobile-friendly:

  1. Responsive Web Design (RWD), whereby your site uses the same url and code but responds to the size of the users screen size to give them with the best possible experience whatever device they are viewing it upon.
  2. Mobile Site – dynamically serving separate mobile-optimised templates to mobile devices.
  3. Mobile Site – using a separate mobile URL to which the user is re-directed on detection of a mobile device.

Google has stated that “Responsive design is Google’s recommended design pattern.” However has also stated that the algorithm does not favour one approach over another and recognises all 3 of the above approaches to mobile configuration. Google goes as far as to say “it’s fine to use more than one configuration for your site”.

So which is the best approach? The answer totally dependant on your particular set of circumstances, what you want to achieve and who your audience is. At Design By Day we ensure all our sites are mobile-friendly as standard. The approach we take all depends on what the client wants to achieve and the best approach to implementation. Some sites are more suited RWD and some to a mobile version. A thorough discovery process should be undertaken before committing to any web technique.

The Mobile Site approach is particularly useful in circumstances where the mobile goals and desktop goals significantly differ; the desktop version is very complex and doesn’t translate very well to mobile responsively; or the amount of code required for the site to work well across all browsers would lead to slower loading times for mobile devices connected to mobile internet.

It should also be pointed out that site owners do not need to go back to creating a new website from scratch to make it mobile friendly. Providing your site been well coded in the first place it is possible to retro-fit responsiveness, although in some circumstances a separate mobile template may be more cost effective.

The wider picture

Adhering to Google is all well and good from an SEO point of view, but optimising your site for mobile shouldn’t just be for Google’s sake. You should be optimising it to ensure your site provides a great experience for your mobile customers. Loading times, easily accessible content and good user experience are all important factors in reducing bounce-rate, engaging users and increasing conversions on mobile.

Of course mobile-friendliness is just part of the wider picture when it comes to getting your site ranked well in the SERPS (Search Engine Results Pages). There are many other onsite and offsite factors to consider. Having a mobile-friendly site is just one weapon in your SEO arsenal. How major that weapon is will be revealed on the 21st April!

See our earlier post for more information about the importance of making your site mobile-friendly.