12 Mar Procrastinators Beware – Google Goes Mobile April 21st
In not so many words, Google is telling you that you’ve had long enough to make the transition to a mobile-friendly or responsive design website. As such, on April 21st procrastinators will at long last need to adhere to mobile design or be whisked away into the netherworld of Google pagination.
The anticipated mobile-friendly algorithm has arrived.
This was made clear in a recent announcement by Google in their Webmaster Central blog which in not so few words states: You have until April 21st 2015 to make your website mobile-friendly – or risk losing any mobile search positioning you currently enjoy. Here is an excerpt from the official announcement:
“Starting April 21, we will be expanding our use of mobile-friendliness as a ranking signal. This change will affect mobile searches in all languages worldwide and will have a significant impact in our search results. Consequently, users will find it easier to get relevant, high quality search results that are optimized for their devices.”
Why You Can’t Ignore This Update
Sure, we’ve heard this type of doom-and gloom announcement before from Google, and yes the ensuing hype is oft-times overblown, but if you are considering riding this out without preparations you might want to rethink that strategy and here’s why.
Google usually only provides vague references to upcoming algorithm changes, and the specifics are left to wide speculation. Sometimes we get a bit more insight along the way from conferences like SMX or the occasional cryptic tweet from Matt Cutts, but overall the details are only known after the algorithm is in place and data starts pouring in (and where Google Analytics views reach Psi-like proportions). In this case however, Google is explicitly telling us that mobile-friendly websites will get preference in mobile search.
Not only that, Google is providing a hard date (another oddity for algorithm changes) with a lengthy window. It’s clear that Google is using this announcement not just as a warning but to persuade website owners to make the change now before the algorithm is in place. Those reasons alone should generate some concern for business owners who still have a website with antiquated coding or design elements.
The Mobile Friendly Test
It begs the question – what is mobile friendly? It’s a question that only Google can answer (since they’ll be doing the judging on April 21st), and as such they have produced the aptly-named online tool: “Mobile-Friendly Test”. You can find it here.
Using the tool is quite simple – just type in your web address, and pray you get the “all OK” from Google. The online tool will return one of two messages:
The upbeat, office party inspiring:
Or the laconic:
If your site is not mobile-friendly, the online tool will tell you what’s wrong, and even give you advice on how to fix the problem. For the test I ran, the tool found that the failing website was built on WordPress, and then forwarded me on to a rather detailed step by step instruction set on how to update WordPress and update my theme to a responsive one.
Google also prompts you to sign in to Google Webmaster Tools where you can check every page of your website for mobile friendliness. As a precursor to the algorithm, you may have already received a message from Google in Webmaster Tools that there are mobile usability issues on your site:
You can also check page by page mobile issues in Google Webmaster Tools by navigating to Search Traffic and Mobile Usability. Here you can more in depth information on usability errors on a per page basis.
You Still Have Time
Google has given you a window of opportunity to make your website mobile-friendly. Take the time to review what criteria Google is using to grade websites, and make the change. Even if you aren’t seeing a large number of mobile searches on your website, there is every indication that mobile search will overtake desktop search in overall search traffic in 2015. My advice: don’t procrastinate.
*As reported by eMarketer.com http://www.emarketer.com/Article/Mobile-Search-Will-Surpass-Desktop-2015/1011657