What Google's Mobile-Friendly Algorithm Change Means For You
April 20, 2015
By Dolly Howard
Google is updating their algorithm tomorrow, April 21, 2015, and some are calling it Mobilegeddon. Is it true? Can the update really be this bad? For the companies who do not possess a mobile-friendly website, it most likely means a decrease in rankings and thus, less traffic to their website. The next question to ask is why Google is making this update if it's going to cause so many companies strife? It's simple - better user experience. Like so many past algorithm updates and changes, Google is primarily focused on delivering an exemplary experience to its users. According to Google,
In the USA, 94% of people with smartphones search for local information on their phones. Interestingly, 77% of mobile searches occur at home or at work, places where desktop computers are likely to be present.
With these kinds of numbers in mind, it only makes sense that Google would start putting an emphasis on mobile-optimized websites. So, how can you prepare for this update? There are a few places to start:
Does Your Website Pass the Mobile-Friendliness Test?
Google is making it simple for companies to test their website and ensure that you have a mobile-friendly site. They have created a tool called the "Mobile-Friendly Test" where you can type in your web address and see if you meet the new standard. When you pass the test, it looks something like this:
If you don't pass the test Google will give you insights as to why it didn't pass and will look something like this:
What Happens if You Don't Pass?
If your site isn't fully optimized for mobile devices, you will likely see a hit to your ranking on mobile searches. What that means is you need to have a mobile site up and running in the near term. Here's where to start:
Decide How You Will Optimize for Mobile
There are several approaches for optimizing your site for mobile devices. Choose one of the following that works for you:
- Responsive Design - Responsive Design is the number one choice by Google for mobile optimization design patterns. Choosing responsive design is desirable because it only uses one URL for your site rather than a mobile URL and a desktop URL.
NOTE: If you're already hosted on HubSpot's COS then you're optimized with responsive design. If you're not already hosted on the COS but need to move to it now, you can request a free consultation to learn about the process here.
- Dynamic Serving - Dynamic serving changes the HTML of your website while keeping the same URL. Instead of shrinking and optimizing one design, dynamic serving figures out what kind of device the user is experiencing your website with and changes up to code to show something different. This is a more complicated process, but offers an optimized result as well.
NOTE: This approach is known to be a lot more error-prone so beware before choosing this option.
- Separate Mobile Website - When mobile optimized sites first started to come to light, this was the way to create them. Instead of using one URL, a mobile website is essentially a new website built for your company for mobile purposes. It's onerous for Google though. It means that they have to crawl two websites and two versions of your content. If you already have this in place, make sure it works properly. If you're considering this option, make sure the other two aren't better fits first.
Why SmartBug Media Designs Responsive Websites
At SmartBug Media, we've made the conscious choice of designing responsive websites on HubSpot and other platforms, like Wordpress, for our clients. We encourage incoming clients who need a website redesign to use responsive design patterns because:
- Google loves it: As mentioned above, responsive design patterns are recommended by Google and we love to keep Google happy. Why does Google love it so much? In short, it improves the efficiency of Googlebot, the tool used to crawl your website, which in turn helps Google index more of your content sooner. It also assists in assigning indexing properties to content using Google's algorithms without needing to check two places.
- It's easier for you and your marketing team: When marketers use a tool like HubSpot to build a responsive design, it is much easier to maintain. It also means that you only have to make updates in one place rather than on multiple sites. You know when a web page is updated, it's going to look correct on mobile and desktop screens. Responsive design takes the worry out of your day and allows you to focus on marketing.
- Your leads and customers get a better experience: With one URL being used, your leads and customers receive a seamless website experience from mobile to desktop. Menus haven't changed from one to the next, and everything looks familiar. This helps build trust with your audience and ensures you stand with or ahead of the competition.
- It's the future of web design: Responsive design is where we believe websites are going. Instead of investing in two completely different sites, or creating two different sets of code, consolidate and use responsive. It will be a better investment in the long run.
If you're looking for help in deciding what to do next, we offer free website consultations for companies looking to become mobile-friendly, or who need to move on to the HubSpot COS. You can request a consultation here.
Will the Google algorithm change affect your website rank? Let us know by tweeting us at @smartbugmedia.
About the author
Dolly Howard was formerly Director of Marketing for SmartBug Media. Previously she worked as a senior marketing consultant leading SmartBug Media clients in strategy for lead conversion improvement and total marketing ROI. As a past HubSpot employee, Dolly is excited to share her knowledge and help enterprise companies grow their business. Read more articles by Dolly Howard.