Unless your have your eyes and ears closed online recently, you’ve no doubt heard about Google’s planned mobile friendly algorithm update due 21st April 2015.
If you’re really unfortunate like some small business owners I’ve spoken to recently, you’ve also been bombarded with emails and calls telling you your website is not mobile friendly. Of course, they have just the solution for you…
What really irritates me is the crap some of these calls and emails are spouting with their sales scare tactics.
This post isn’t a technical overview, nor a “Mobilegeddon are you ready” post – there are plenty of those around the web. It’s simply somewhere for me to direct people to the relevant info rather than answer the same question(s) multiple times.
Mobile Friendly – What Google Said…
Back in February this year, Google announced:
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.
The bold emphasis is mine because it seems to be a point that is conveniently left out in the plethora of sales calls and emails. The algo update affects mobile search results, not desktop results.
Google are not about to “penalise” your website across the board nor wipe it from the search results because it isn’t mobile friendly. Google are tweaking the algorithm so mobile friendly pages are more likely to show higher in the mobile search results. Non-mobile friendly sites that are relevant to searchers won’t be dropped totally but may suffer because of the boost to mobile friendly sites. (See video at 9mins at the end of this post)
Just like in standard search, Google ranks pages not whole websites. That’s why it is important to check that your pages are mobile friendly, not just your homepage.
Google provide a Mobile Friendly Test where you can check on a page by page basis.
You can also check in Google’s Webmaster Tools if you have connected your website. Click on “Search Traffic” then “Mobile Usability” in the left hand menu to see any pages on your website that are not mobile friendly.
Only Google’s Opinion Matters
One of the sales tactics that I have been told about is the “We’ve ran a test and your site score is low for mobile friendliness”.
That may well be the case! Google’s own Page Speed Insights will give you a raft of improvements you can make. Just to muddy the waters, you can get a low score and still pass the mobile friendliness test and both tests are Google’s…
The reason why is mentioned in the video below. The Mobile Friendly Test uses Google bot.
However, it is worth knowing that your webpages either pass the Google’s Mobile Friendly Test or don’t. There’s no score, no half ways. According to the Test, a page is either mobile friendly or not. At this point in time, that’s the only test that matters.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying don’t look at improvements to create a better user experience. Just don’t be pressured into buying a mobile website when you may not need one.
I’ve been told I need a separate mobile site
You don’t need a separate mobile site just for this algorithm update.
A responsive site that passes the Mobile Friendly Test is fine. It’s a business decision whether a separate mobile website is more suited to your needs, not chasing some Google update.
My website isn’t mobile friendly at all
I’m making a rather large assumption that you are a small business targeting local based customers because you are reading this! Local searches are often from mobiles. People search for phone numbers, opening hours, addresses and directions, names of contact people all on the go.
The push to mobile isn’t new or sudden. Google already labels sites as mobile friendly in mobile search results.
Start planning to update your website – not because of a Google update, but because your viewers will have a better experience. If someone can’t get your website to load or needs to start scrolling all over because the content is wider than the screen, they’re not likely to navigate further into your site, contact you, share your pages or anything else.
The Google test will give you some advice how to make your site mobile friendly. In the screenshot below you’ll see a page that failed the test with a blue Next button – click your button.
In this case, the page was on WordPress and can be solved by a simple change of theme to a responsive rather than fixed width theme. This business does not need a brand new website unless they want one…
I’ve seen a case where the the website displays fine on mobile and mobile emulators and fails the Mobile Friendly Test. The site is blocking Google Bot access to some files and areas of the site. Again, it’s a simple fix by the web designer, not a brand new website.
Do the test, check your analytics and go from there.
- Does your website currently receive mobile visitors?
- Do you need a new website or can your current website be updated within your budget?
- Is a separate mobile website better for your business needs or will responsive be adequate?
To Sum Up
You know when people call or email you with helpful advice they are likely selling you something. Mobilegeddon on 21st April is no different! Don’t let the scare tactics push you into a mobile website you may not need.
For a local business, a simple responsive website is often enough.
Do your own research and check out Google’s Mobile Friendly Website Guide.
This video is a Google Webmasters Q&A session, which goes into far more detail about the mobile friendly update.
Over to you…
Have you been approached to buy a mobile website because of the mobile friendly update? Does your website pass the mobile friendly test? Let us know your experiences, leave a comment below.Google's Mobile Friendly Update – Do You Really Need A New Website? by Jan Kearney