Chances are, you’ve already heard that Google has announced a new algorithm update that will include “mobile friendliness” as a ranking factor. The expected “date” for this algorithm will be April 21, 2015. So what does that mean to you and me? Is the solution to use a responsive WordPress theme? Will a WordPress plugin meet your needs? If you don’t make your site friendly for mobile devices, will this Google algorithm update affect how your site ranks in the SERPs (Search Engine Result pages) for desktop computers as well?
Google to Rank Mobile-Friendliness:
On February 26th, Google announced that they were modifying their algorithms to include “mobile-friendliness” and that this change will have a “significant impact” in their search results:
In the article, Unprecedented Google Announcement of a Mobile-Friendly Algorithm Change, (on BruceClay.com), Robert Ramirez briefly outlines what is expected to happen and the potential impact on us.
For those of you who haven’t read this post, here are some of the highlights:
- In the past, mobile rankings have been tied to the ranking strength of your desktop site.
- If you had been ranking well on the desktop SERP (search engine result page), you would rank well on the mobile SERP also.
- Although the announcement addresses mobile search results there are rumors that (in the future) this algorithm could affect desktop rankings as well.
- It is unknown if this algorithm is being applied to a whole site or on a page-by-page basis.
- The assumption is that websites using responsive themes will be favored in the search results.
- You can test your website using Google’s Mobile Friendly Test
- You can also check your “Mobile Usability” report using Google Webmaster Tools (under “Search Traffic”)
Google Webmaster Tool Mobile Usability Alerts:
Google has already begun emailing alerts to webmasters who have Google Webmaster Tools set up for their domain. However, not receiving an email alert does not mean that your site has passed the tests. (I suspect that the alerts that are being emailed to us is a sign of how significant the mobile friendliness issues are.)
For example, I manage several client sites (as well as my own) in GWT (Google Webmaster Tools). While Google has emailed me warnings for two of the sites I manage, I have not received a warning for my site (KeepUpWithTheWeb.com.). However, when I ran my site through Google’s mobile-friendly test, my site fails.
Preparing for the Mobile-Friendly Algorithm:
So, what’s your plan? My first priority is to rectify the issues for my clients’ sites. One of my clients is approaching this as a re-branding opportunity. Together, we’re looking at all of her sites strategically. (Two of her sites are already on responsive WordPress themes). We are searching for a responsive theme and redesigning her main site.
In the case of my other client, she has declined to take any action. Having invested in a professional site design (which she is very happy with), this client is not concerned that her site isn’t mobile-friendly. She deals mainly with corporate clients and she’s not willing to compromise her design.
As for me, I’ve wanted to give my blog a fresh, clean look for a long time now. I’ve also talked about moving my site to a new webhost. So, this will be an opportunity for me as well. Don’t expect to see changes too quickly though. I intend to do this slowly and strategically. I’m tired of the look of this site but I don’t want regular readers to suddenly land on a site and not recognize me either. (As always, I’d love to hear your thoughts about this in the comments below.)
Should We Rush to Make our Sites Mobile-Friendly?
According to Bryson Meunier, in his post How Much Traffic Will You Lose From The Upcoming Mobile SEO-Pocalypse? (on SearchEngineLand.com), mobile search accounts for approximately 30% of total traffic regardless of the industry we’re in. (This is based on “The Data Behind Mobile Experiences” presentation by Mitul Gandhi (@seoClarity) at the 2015 Search Marketing Expo.)
While viewing the slideshow pales in comparison to actually being there, some of the obvious takeaways are:
- At the 2014 SMX (Search Marketing Expo), Matt Cutts predicted: “Mobile is important, and coming faster than most people in this room realize”.
- The growth in organic search traffic blurs industry lines.
- While mobile devices are popular during late night and mornings, PCs dominate the 10AM-5PM slot and tablets are the most popular device during early evenings and prime time (8PM -12AM).
What Does Your Mobile Traffic Look Like?
In the same SearchEngineLand.com article where Bryson Meunier shared Mitul Gandhi’s presentation, he went on to share a slightly different perspective from Rand Fishkin (Founder of Moz.com). They’re conducting a website audit over at MOZ to determine what percentage of their traffic comes from mobile devices. Most of their site is not responsive. You can find the Percent of Mobile usage of Moz.com discussion over on Google+. Here’s a screenshot (for those of you who are happy with excerpts):
If you want to participate in (or simply read) the comments in that discussion, check it out on Google+. One of my observations is that we’ll be seeing a lot of case studies over the next few months as people make their sites mobile responsive.
What Should We Be Doing Now?
According to Aleyda Solis (@aleyda), in her post 3 Actions To Ready For Google’s Mobile Search (on SearchEngineLand.com), Google has been encouraging webmasters to make their sites mobile-friendly for years. . In her article, she recommends these three steps:
#1 – “Identify & Improve Your Mobile Web Optimization Status”
#2 – “Assess Your Mobile Web Search Visibility & Traffic Behavior”
#3 – “Establish Your Mobile Web Search Competitiveness & Monitor Your Performance
Aleyda’s article is chock-full of screenshots and suggestions on tools that we can use to perform a mobile SEO audit on our sites. The screen-shots (and information) that she provides includes:
- Google’s Mobile-Friendly Test
- Google Webmaster Tools
- Screaming Frog
- Google’s PageSpeed Insights
- Google Analytics
- Chrome’s Device Mode (developer tool)
- SEMrush (for keyword discovery, position tracking & web ranking)
- Google’s Keyword Planner
In addition to the screen shots, Aleyda goes into details on how to use these tools and what questions we should be asking. She ends her article with tips for those of you who have a mobile app.
Over to You:
What are your thoughts? Did you find the article by Aleyda Solis helpful? Did you receive a Google Webmaster Tools alert regarding your website? Does your website pass their mobile-friendly test? Are you adopting a wait-and-see position to see how this pans out. Hopefully, most of you are already using a responsive WordPress theme and are prepared. As always, please share your thoughts, ideas, concerns and recommendations in the comments below.