There’s no doubt that mobile search has taken off in recent years, so much so that Google has decided to modify its algorithms to account for it. In the last quarter of 2014, 43% of Google’s organic search traffic came from mobile devices, a 10% increase from the previous year. On many websites, 25% or more of traffic can be attributed to mobile, and we can only expect this trend to continue upward.
What exactly will these changes entail?
Starting April 21st, Google’s algorithms (the processes and formulas that turn your search query into results) will be taking into account whether or not a website is mobile-friendly, and adjusting search rankings accordingly. The intention is to make it easier for people to find the high quality content they are looking for in a format that is accommodating to the device they’re using. Ultimately, websites that are not mobile-friendly will not rank as highly in mobile search results.
Referring to the upcoming update, Google said:
“As more people use mobile devices to access the Internet, our algorithms have to adapt to these usage patterns…This change will affect mobile searches in all languages worldwide and will have a significant impact in our search results.”
To give you an idea of how much of an impact this algorithm will have, Google’s Webmaster Trends team stated that the launch will have more of an impact on mobile search than the recent Panda and Penguin updates did. Panda 4.1 was launched back in September in an effort to minimize low quality content from search results, and Penguin 3.0 went live in October to target spammy sites that violate Google’s linking rules. For those of you that have mobile-friendly sites, you could potentially see your mobile rankings improve quite a bit (nice!), but for sites that are not compatible your ranking will drop (not so nice).
If you do a search on a mobile device, websites that are mobile-friendly are indicated as so directly under the URL, like this screenshot of a Google search below:
How to prepare for this update
Even though April 21st is right around the corner, don’t panic! There are still plenty of things you can do to be ready. While you probably won’t be able to design a new site overnight, you will be aware of what you need to do to improve your mobile user experience and attract that traffic to your site.
Not surprisingly, the first thing you need to do is check to see if your website is already mobile-friendly. If your website was designed in a responsive format or you have a separate mobile site, then you’re good to go! If you don’t, you can check to see if your website is compatible through this free Google Webmaster tool. Simply enter your website’s URL and Google will report their findings within a matter of seconds.
Next, you will want to look into the load times for various web pages to ensure that content will load quickly on all devices. Websites that take more than a few seconds to load on a mobile device see bounce rates upwards of 74%, so you want to make sure the content on your site loads quickly and correctly. Again, Google provides a free tool to analyze your site.
The trend towards a mobile-dominated search industry is stronger than ever, and Google’s update is a clear indication of that. I think it’s safe to say that we can expect more developments in the future from Google and other search engines when it comes to mobile.
If your website isn’t mobile-friendly yet, we’re here to help!