August 12, 2015
Mobile-Geddon was a relatively major event in the online marketing world earlier this year. If you have a website for your business or brand, and you keep up-to-date on the latest digital marketing and SEO news, you might have already heard about it. If not, allow me to explain…
What is Mobile-Geddon?
Mobile Geddon was Google’s “mobile-friendly” search engine update, which introduced mobile-friendliness as a ranking factor in mobile search results. Google started rolling this out on April 21, 2015. It didn’t take long for webmasters around the world to start reporting a drop in mobile traffic and rankings on their non-mobile optimized sites.
So, why is Mobile-Geddon such a big deal?
Everyday, Google makes major updates to their search algorithms that decide which websites deserve to rank highly, and which don’t. Most of the changes Google makes are minor tweaks to their algorithm with minimal affects on the majority of websites. In fact, most of Google’s ranking factors are not known for sure. But on very rare occasions, Google publicizes an algorithm change before they make it. When Google does this, you can expect the update to have a major affect on websites.
Does mobile-friendliness matter for my website?
The short answer is yes. If your website is not currently optimized, you now run the risk of losing search engine traffic from mobile searches.
More importantly, a non-mobile-friendly website is very user-unfriendly, which means that you’ll annoy mobile users who do manage to access your website, and potentially lose their business to a competitor whose website that can navigate easily.
If you’re a numbers person, you might be interested to know the following stats on mobile Internet usage:
- Eighty percent of Internet users own a Smartphone;
- In 2014, the number of global mobile phone users surpassed the number of desktop users;
- Forty-eight percent of mobile research for purchasing products starts in a search engine;
- It’s not just mobile phones and computers… Smart TVs and Smart Watches are on the rise too, so a responsivewebsite is more important than ever.
What do I do about it?
First things first: don’t panic. Luckily, if your website needs tweaking, any updates you make will have an almost instant effect on your Google ranking. Follow the steps below to check whether your site needs a mobile-friendly update, find out how to make the changes, and what you need to do to stay ahead of the next big update.
Step 1: Check if it’s Mobile-Friendly
If you’re not sure if your site is mobile-friendly, there’s a few different ways you can check. One simple way is to use Google’s Mobile-Friendly Test Tool. All you have to do is put in your URL and Google will tell you if it considers your site mobile-friendly or not. It will also give you a preview of what their bots can see when they crawl your site.
To check if your site is responsive (responds to different screenwidths), open it in your browser. Make the window slightly smaller than the screen by clicking the squares in the top right corner between the cross and minimize symbols pictured below.
Drag the left or right side of the screen in and out. If the elements on your site respond to different screen widths… congratulations, you have a responsive website.
One other way to test mobile-friendliness is to just open the site on your Smartphone and see what it does. If you need to zoom in to read the text, or scroll from left to right to see all the elements, your site isn’t mobile friendly.
Step 2: Make it Mobile Friendly!
If your site’s not up to scratch yet, you should make it your priority to convert it to a mobile responsive design. Talk to your Web developer about your options here, as this can get a little technical.
Sometimes, an existing site can be converted to mobile-responsive by tweaking the styling. Without going into great detail here, the way this works is that the style rules (which tell elements on your site what size they need to be and where they go) can be adjusted to have “break points”. At different break points (or screen widths), elements on your site (including images, menu items, text, etc), will behave differently.
Often it is more economical to simply redesign a site from scratch to make it mobile friendly. Chances are, you could benefit from refreshing the look of your site, anyway.
Ask your web developer to provide you with some clear options. Don’t hold off on making the change because it is important that you start gaining back your mobile visitors as soon as possible.
Step 3: Test Your New Site
Once you have your mobile-friendly site, it’s very important to test it. Don’t assume that everything is working perfectly – sometimes even the best Web developers make mistakes or miss a detail. If your site is now designed to be responsive, it should display nicely at all break points.
Test this by opening the site in your desktop browser. As we mentioned above, you can make the window slightly smaller than the screen by clicking the squares in the top right corner between the cross and minimize symbols pictured below.
Drag the left or right hand side of the window in and out. You should see the elements on your site move around to fit nicely at each change to the screen width. If you notice anything displaying strangely, take note of what it is so that you can ask your Web developer to fix it.
Step 4: Monitor Your Analytics
Now that your site is fully mobile responsive, you should expect to see a number of changes in your analytics, including higher search engine rankings in mobile searches and more visits to your site. If you are tracking conversions, you might also see an increase in conversions as more people are able to use your site on mobile.
Check your Google analytics and other tools to see the effects of your website update.
Step 5: Keep Your Site Up-to-Date
It’s great that you’ve made an effort to modernize your site, but it doesn’t mean that you can sit back and relax until Google announces their next algorithm change. After all, mobile-responsiveness was a recommended feature by digital marketing and web design experts for years before Mobile-Geddon was announced.
Ideally, you should stay on top of industry trends by surrounding yourself with trusted experts and advisers. In addition, your focus should be on continually adding useful features to your website and making it a better experience for your users. By focusing on great content and user-friendliness, you will stay ahead of future algorithm updates and create an online resource that your customers will want to keep coming back to.
Over to you now…
Is your site mobile-friendly? Have you seen increased traffic following the algorithm change in April 2015? Just leave us a comment below.
Simon Dell is a former agency owner and managing director, and is now a freelance consultant under his own brand SimonDell.com. His goal is to help develop and implement strategic digital and creative marketing plans for clients delivering measurable results and fantastic ROI. He also writes for Fairfax Media, MYOB's business portal and frequently speaks at events and conferences around Australia.