Google update - Are you ready for April 21st?

As most of you know, Google is constantly developing its algorithms to make sure it’s customers are getting the best results for their search query. Traditionally that has been mainly focused on desktop devices. This is set to change at the end of April when Google will be expanding their use of mobile friendliness as a ranking signal. This change will affect mobile searches in all languages worldwide and will have a huge impact in mobile search results. Therefore if your current website is not mobile optimised or responsive, then you will fall down the ranking order quite dramatically.

Why are they doing this you might ask?

Well there is a simple answer. It’s purely down to the amount of web traffic coming from mobile devices, and Google has a duty to deliver the best results for a query.

Everyones time is very precious these days and we always try and cram as much as we can into our working and social day. So when we get on a train or waiting in a queue for a sandwich, what do you see around you? People on their mobile phones searching, researching and more importantly, buying things.

In fact the same happens in our house in the evening, while watching TV. I sometimes wonder if it would be quicker to ask my wife if she would like a drink by sending her a Direct Message on Facebook, even though she is sat right next to me! Although I don’t think that we are unique in that fact.

Mobile usage is exploding globally. No matter where we are, we always have our mobile phones with us, which provide us with easy access to all of the information that we could ever want. Whether you are one of the 135,000 people a month searching for funny cat videos (quote Neal Bicker) or you are one of the millions of people searching for a cheap holiday or car insurance daily.

The common factor is that mobile phones are now part of our every day life whether we like it or not, and Google is now making a big effort to ensure that optimised websites deliver us content which is easily viewed from our variety of devices.     

We believe that Google’s constant upgrades to it’s algorithm can only be a good thing. They constantly improve the experience for the user, ensuring their needs are met above all. And this in turn, means that the well designed, well structured, content rich responsive websites will, rightly so, feature highly in mobile search results.

So, in simple terms, the sites that offer the best experience and results for the user will succeed. The more you dedicate to the quality of your website with great, rich targeted content, the more you will start to see great rewarding results.

This latest update has continued the quality theme by penalising websites which don’t provide a good mobile experience for its customers. Google doesn’t want to rank a website that hasn’t been optimised for mobile usage, if there is a better alternative. So be prepared to fail if you don’t do anything about this upgrade.

So how will this update impact me you might ask?

If you have already developed a mobile optimised website then keep doing what you are doing, which is hopefully continuing to produce quality, relavant contant on your mobile optimised platform, and you will start to see some more impressive gains in your search results. If your site isn’t responsive or mobile optimised then be prepared to see a possible fall in web traffic as more optimised sites take over.

If you are unsure if your website is mobile optimised or not then Google has produced a nice little tool for you to check - Google Tool

What do we need to do?

So, you might ask what can you do to prepare your website for the Google mobile update? I am going to take a look at a few ways that can help you create a great mobile-friendly website.

1 Develop a new mobile responsive website

Depending on how old your current website is, it might be a good time to look at re developing it to get the most out of the new algorithm.

Bear in mind, responsive websites do take a little longer to design, and additional time is added to the cross browser testing process. However, ultimately you will end up with a website which gets the most out of the Google search algorithms, and also you will gain an advantage over your competition, with much increased traffic from potential new customers.

Some mobile responsive websites developed by Absolute –

www.h2gc.com
www.manchester.ac.uk
www.wambamclub.com

If you have missed front end developer Shaun Barrio's latest blog on this issue, then it's well worth a quick read - Four reasons you should have a responsive website.

2 Use mobile-friendly plugins to convert your page

Most hosting sites allow for businesses to transform their website from a desktop version to mobile through the use of plugins. The most common is the responsive design plugin, which is both affordable and the best one for Google’s update if you are working to a tight budget. One of the main reasons Google prefers and recommends responsive mobile design is because it helps them to assess the mobile friendliness of your website, and makes things easier for them when indexing.

3 Create mobile-friendly images

When you add images to your website, you should make sure that they are mobile-friendly. This means that they shouldn’t be too large, because that can take a significant amount of download time, or distort the page once it loads.

A great way to do this is to follow this guide from Site Point, which discusses how to make sure your images stay a decent size when people come to your mobile site.

4 Fix Basic HTML for Smartphone Usage

In the Site Point article mentioned above, the author also states that fixing basic HTML on your mobile site will significantly help with smartphone usage. When a user is using a smartphone to access a web page, he/she will use your website differently. We never use keyboards with our smartphones and many like to tilt their screen to get a better view of a website in landscape mode. If your site is not prepared for any of this, it could be problematic for your users, which will ultimately deliver a poor user experience.

The conclusion is that with the growing trend on enhanced mobile use over desktop use, you need to make sure that your website is scaleable across all devices to maximise your online visability. Having a non reponsive website will not neccesarily affect your desktop search results, however you will start to see a lot less mobile traffic coming through if you don’t act now, and with the speed of growth in mobile usage, can you afford not to?