Google has been rolling out lots of changes to apps, Google Play and the presentation of mobile search engine results all in preparation for a larger algorithm release that is scheduled to be released on or around April 21st. As we learned from past Google algorithm changes (Penguin and Panda), these updates can greatly impact where your site ranks in the search engine results pages (SERPs).
The update set to be released on April 21st is focused on providing a better search experience for mobile users. To accomplish this, Google will be “expanding its use of mobile-friendliness as a ranking signal.” So what does that mean to business owners? If your website isn’t mobile-friendly, your mobile search engine rankings could take a hit.
In an email sent to Webmasters, Google has indicated that they are looking at the following factors when determining if your website is mobile friendly or not.
- Content not sized to viewport – This means that the content of your website is not resizing to match the width of the viewer’s screen. This will result in text that is challenging for user to read and may cause a horizontal scroll bar making site navigation a challenge for the user.
- Touch elements too close – links and buttons that are clickable on a mobile device need to be approximately 12-20 pixels apart to make for easy touching on a smaller screen. Having your buttons, links or other touch elements too close together will cause a usability issue and will make your site not mobile friendly in Google’s algorithm.
- Flash usage – Most mobile browsers do not render Flash-based content. Therefore, mobile visitors will not be able to use a page that relies on Flash in order to display content, animations, or navigation.
The first thing you should do if you are concerned about this update, is run your website through Google’s Mobile-Friendly Test (https://www.google.com/webmasters/tools/mobile-friendly). If you get the following message, you are good to go.
The nice thing about this update, is that Google is giving webmasters exact tasks they can do to make sure their websites are not negatively affected. If your website turns up a not mobile-friendly message, here are the actions you can take to course correct and avoid a decrease in mobile ranking after April 21st.
- Check with your webmaster – it’s possible that your website just needs a few tweaks to make it mobile friendly. Make sure to get a couple examples from your webmaster and run them through the Google Test above. If they pass, there is a good chance your provider can help make your website mobile friendly as well.
- Find a new provider – if your current provider cannot create a mobile or responsive site for you, it’s time to start seeking out a new vendor. If you are looking for a new provider, make sure you find one who is well versed in Search Engine Optimization. You don’t want to create a new site with a mobile solution only to jeopardize existing desktop rankings with non-optimized titles and a changing URL structure.
- Test and test again – once you have a mobile solution in place it’s important to check every page of your site to make sure all links work and that pages are loading properly.
Though it may seem reactive and hurried, website owners are going to have to adapt to the new mobile-centric digital marketing universe. Since Google is the industry leader, when they give a command, it behooves business owners to follow.
What is your plan for the Google Mobile-Friendly Update? Let us know in the comments below.