Google has announced that changes to its algorithms are to come into play on April 21st aimed at rewarding those sites that are mobile friendly by improving rankings. This should come as no surprise to most marketing managers, as mobile now makes up around 30% of all traffic across all industries. Additionally, we’ve seen the use of responsive web design increase significantly over the course of the past few years, as many sites choose to upgrade to ensure that they are suitable for the mobile generation.
The new algorithms won’t automatically rank sites with responsive designs however, as these are not always particularly mobile-friendly. Any site is only as good as its designer and it was found back in 2012 that many responsive sites at the time were very slow. This was due to the way that content was sent to the target device, as it was found that many sites were delivering the entire desktop content to mobile. Even if the content didn’t load, it was still requested from the server and therefore slowed a site considerably.
With this in mind, if you’re considering a responsive design, then you should choose your development team wisely and always look at previous work carried out.
What Google’s Announcement Means to Traffic
It could mean a drop in traffic if your site is not mobile friendly as Google won’t rank the site as highly. However, this is not a certainty as a recent G+ discussion from Moz’s Rand Fishkin talked about the device breakdown for Moz and found that in fact, the mobile traffic to the site was pretty low. This meant that according to Justin Briggs, Moz would be losing a mere 1% of its traffic if it was ranked lower due to not being mobile friendly.
Search Engine Land points out that Moz will go ahead and make its site more mobile friendly despite this. Search Engine Land’s article also takes a look at some of Moz’s key metrics in order to illustrate how you can determine loss of traffic, so it’s worth checking out.
In order to decide if you should be worried about the upcoming changes, it’s first going to be necessary to take a look at how many mobile visitors that you get. This can be found in Google Analytics data easily enough and you can also use other SEO tools when considering keywords.
As well as the above, you can carry out a mobile friendly test using Google’s Page Speed tools, including the main one for desktop (as it gives you a little more information than the mobile-only one).
Mobile, Performance and SEO
As internet speeds have got quicker, the need for considering page speeds and file sizes has reduced somewhat, when compared to the old dial-up connection days of old where images could mean the difference between a site loading quickly or not. However, thanks largely to mobile, performance has once more become something of an important issue. There are over 200 ranking factors in Google algorithms though and whilst site speed does have some bearing on SEO, it’s not the most important factor by far.
The sticking point then for performance is mobile – many sites load perfectly well on desktop but fail to load within an acceptable time on mobile. And this means that you have lost out on traffic, possible leads and customers. Performance is high on the agenda when it comes to UX and given that Google has recently been sending out mass warnings to webmasters on the subject of mobile UX it’s something that you should pay attention to.
With this in mind, it would appear that mobile is high on the search giant’s agenda when it comes to its next web improvement project and this is backed up by the introduction of the new algorithm.
Preparing for the Update
In order to prepare for the update, follow the steps above to see how mobile-friendly your site is and analyse metrics to discover how much of your current traffic is coming from mobile devices. From there, you can decide if the site needs updating and then just it’s a case of getting together with your web developer in order to discuss your best options.
You have three main choices:
- A separate standalone mobile site: an expensive choice as two sites will need to be maintained going forward. It’s also not the best choice for SEO as Google will have two URLs to crawl and rank rather than just one.
- An adaptive site: can be expensive as frameworks must be created for each and every target device that might visit the site. As mobile devices change relatively often, it’s also perhaps not the most future-proof.
- A responsive site: can suffer from performance issues so it’s vital that you check out the work of your designer and measure the speed of the sites that they have already built.
It’s worth bearing in mind that your host could also contribute towards the speed of your website. You can complete a full test over at GT Metrix to really drill down what might be causing performance issues overall.
The new algorithms may affect your site if it’s not already completely mobile-ready, but depending on your existing traffic, it’s unlikely to have a significant effect that can adversely affect a business. That said, there’s no getting away from the fact that we live in a world where mobile has become indispensable to modern life, and with the emergence of new tech such as the Internet of Things (IoT), smartwatches and other wearables, it’s likely that you will need to upgrade at some point – so why not now?