Is Your Website Ready for Google’s Mobile Search Update?

March 30, 2015 — Simon Kelly

Google's mobile search update

Google regularly rolls out new updates and tweaks to improve the relevancy of the search results displayed to users. This is nothing new and these changes affect the results and web marketing strategies of website owners and SEO experts alike so they can keep their sites ahead of the competition.

Google recently announced:

“Starting April 21, 2015, 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.”

This is one of the largest algorithm updates that we’ve seen in Google’s recent history and will have a big impact on where your site measures up within the search results. Let’s look at what you can do to avoid any negative impact from the update and how to use it to your website’s advantage.

Why Google is Focusing on Mobile

Mobile optimisation is nothing new but it’s impact on search has long been debatable. This announcement by Google is a clear indicator that mobile friendly sites will be given preferential treatment when it comes to displaying results. 

The reason for doing so is clear – mobile search is growing extremely rapidly.

With mobile search accounting for 20% of all Google searches, mobile optimisation is an important step forward for any business website and for the user experience of websites visitors.

If Google is to focus efforts on providing useful and relevant mobile search results, then sending users to a website that is not optimised for mobile is not useful for the user and therefore not useful for Google.

To make sure your site is future-Google-proof you must first understand how future Google thinks:

Google’s goal is to provide the most relevant and useful results possible.

If a result does not give a good user-experience, then you can be sure that Google will be working to penalise that result. This is the key to keep in mind when optimising your site.

How to Assess Mobile Compatibility

To see where your website stands with mobile optimisation, Google has provided two tools to help website owners prepare for the update.

The first is Google’s mobile friendly test tool which is used to assess if your website is properly viewable by Google as a mobile friendly site. This tool takes about 1 minute to run and will report back with details on how mobile friendly your website is and will give detail on areas that need attention. I recommend you run your website through this tool as soon as possible (after reading this article, of course).

The second tool is the Mobile Usability check found within Google Webmaster Tools. You’ll need to have your site set up and authorised within Google Webmaster Tools to access this and see the results. This report includes more technical information about issues and errors related to mobile compatibility that Google has found while crawling your website.

If you receive any errors within these tools, you have three weeks from today to fix them so that your site is not negatively affected by the worldwide update on 21st April, 2015 (dubbed ‘mobilegeddon’).

It’s not all doom and gloom for your website. Due to this update affecting all of Google’s search results, you can turn this update into a huge advantage by ensuring your site is mobile optimised and able to provide a great experience for mobile visitors.

Benefits of Mobile Optimisation

If you haven’t already optimised your site for mobile visitors then the looming ‘mobilegeddon’ update should be enough reason for you to get started and there is more to it mobile optimisation than just avoiding a Google penalty.

Provide a Better Customer Experience

According to Google’s Think Insights on mobile, if a user lands on your mobile website and is frustrated or doesn’t see what they are looking for, there’s a 61% chance they will leave immediately and go to another website (most likely a competitor). It’s also said that if they have a positive experience with your mobile website, a user is 67% more likely to buy a product or use a service [source: Hubspot].

Local Searches Are from Mobiles

If you are running a local business then the most recent Google update to positively affect your search results was the Pigeon update, which emphasised search results based on the user’s location. With the additional of mobile optimisation as a ranking factor, it is even more important that local businesses optimise their site for mobiles to avoid losing search rankings to their nearby competitors.

Responsive Websites Adapt to Future Devices

Responsive design is an approach to web design aimed at crafting sites to provide an optimal viewing experience—easy reading and navigation with a minimum of resizing, panning, and scrolling—across a wide range of devices.

For your user’s, this means they will be able to view your content and interact with your website on any device without any issues.

From a Google search perspective, using responsive web design has multiple advantages, including:

  • It keeps your desktop and mobile content on a single URL, which is easier for your users to interact with, share, and link to and for Google’s algorithms to assign the indexing properties to your content.
  • Google can discover your content more efficiently as we wouldn’t need to crawl a page with the different Googlebot user agents to retrieve and index all the content.

Mobile Optimised Websites Are Fast

Loading time is a major contributor to website abandonment and mobile users expect a website loading time that’s comparable to what they get on their desktop or laptop. 

How to Optimise for Mobile

Our recommendation is to use responsive design so your website adapts to different device sizes including phones, desktops tablets and even smart TVs. Responsive websites benefit from having one codebase to manage and one place to manage the website’s content without needing a dedicated site tailored for each device. Google also recommend responsive design as their preferred method of mobile optimisation.

For webmasters looking to learn more about the technical side of Mobile SEO visit Google’s Mobile SEO recommendations

Is Your Website Mobile Optimised?

They key to having a competitive edge is foresight and all signs are pointing towards a mobile focused future. Put your business in the best position for your customers and gain a competitive edge within Google’s search results by having a responsive, mobile-optimised website.

If you are interested in how we can help achieve results for your website, including mobile optimisation, get in touch with us and let’s discuss your business goals.

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Simon Kelly

Simon started his first web agency in 2009 which he merged with the SGD team in 2023. With a strong background in digital strategy and a history of working with fast-growing Australian companies, including CyberCX, Envato and Agency Mavericks, he's passionate about using ethical digital marketing that delivers business value. Simon's experience includes coaching digital agencies, running digital marketing workshops, driving growth and excellence within the SGD team.

Read more posts by Simon Kelly

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