Earlier this year, Google announced that it would expand its use of ‘mobile-friendliness’ as a ranking signal on 21 April 2015.
When Google rolled out its Penguin algorithm, it affected around 4% of global searches and its Panda update affected approximately 12% of searches in England, but this new algorithm is likely to have a much bigger effect worldwide.
Currently Google states which websites are mobile friendly in the mobile search results with a little note saying ‘mobile friendly’ next to each site, but once the new algorithm has been rolled out, Google will actually start to reward sites that provide a good mobile experience for users.
Of course the announcement of this new algorithm demonstrates just how important it is for brands to have a mobile-friendly website, but hopefully the majority of people already know that.
In the last couple of years mobile usage has well overtaken desktop and now accounts for 60% of time spent online.
Brands should be embracing the new mobile algorithm instead of fearing it, so here’s a few ways you can prepare for the big roll out this week.
Using responsive web design will be the best option for many sites, as it means your URL shows exactly the same HTML, regardless of what device is being used.
Responsive design will make sure that your content is displayed correctly, based on the screen size of the device being used.
If your site has a responsive design, it will loads faster and allow your users to find, share, and link to your content more easily. It also means Google’s bots will be able to crawl and index your site’s content faster and more efficiently.
Creating a completely separate mobile site is a less desired method than just making the design of your site responsive, but this was one of the first methods of mobile optimisation and it still meets Google’s requirements.
The main reason that this is not the best idea, is that it means you need to maintain double the amount of content, and Google has to crawl both versions.
Google will attempt to detect what device is being used, then redirect correctly, but if a mobile link is shared and clicked on through a desktop, this can sometimes cause problems.
As with a responsively designed site, the adaptive web design approach works by using the same URL. The difference is that the HTML changes when opened on a mobile.
By working with a user-agent, the dynamic server will figure out what device the content is being viewed on and display it accordingly.
The main problem with this approach is that user-agent detection can result in errors, so although it will still qualify for Google’s mobile optimisation requirements, it’s not as good an option as responsive design.
Avoid using any software that is not common on mobile, such as Flash, and check all your redirects are working properly.
For optimal user experience, use mobile centric 404s and try to avoid irrelevant cross-links, any links on mobile should point to other mobile pages and vice versa.
Mobile phones have small screens, which means users can only see a few lines at a time, but the most important thing to remember when creating content for mobile is that users can view it anywhere and at anytime.
Give your content short and entertaining headlines, use text that is readable without having to zoom in, and place links far enough apart so that they can easily be pressed using a finger.
Think about the structure and layout of your content, as readers won’t enjoy looking at large blocks of text, and will need to scroll down to view the majority of your content.
Don’t forget to include a call to action somewhere within your content too, as they most likely won’t get seen at the bottom of your page.
In terms of visual content, use closely cropped images for better focus on detail, be sure to alt-tag all images used, and avoid any fixed-size items that may not fit on mobile screens.
For text, front load important information and make your writing as short and snappy as possible.
It’s critical for online retailers to optimise their ecommerce sites for mobile usage. Sometimes just a couple of tweaks can make a world of difference when it comes to boosting your conversion rate.
The user journey is a critical part of a mobile ecommerce site. If your customer cannot easily navigate to the pages they want to go to or seamlessly pop an item in their cart and checkout, they are likely to leave your site relatively quickly.
Simplify your menus, only use vertical scrolling, work with full size product images, and introduce a one-click payment solution.
It’s important that the design and functionality of your website enhances the user experience, so provide contextually relevant content, taking into consideration mobile screen size, and make the checkout process as simple as possible.
Monitor your site
Use Google’s Mobile Usability report in Google Webmaster Tools to check if any errors have been picked up when crawling your site, and use the Mobile Friendly Test to check your site on a page-by-page basis.
Benchmark your site’s current mobile performance before the algorithm rolls out, then check in a week or so whether your site has been impacted by the change, and look at anything that could be further optimised.
Google Analytics should be used to monitor the amount of traffic coming to your site through mobile and the behaviour of users once on your site. This will show you if users are having any problems or getting stuck on any pages in particular.
There are a lot of articles referring to this new algorithm as “mobilegeddon”, but there is no need to fear this change, as it will only benefit businesses and users. Brands should be embracing this mobile algorithm and preparing their site in order to make the most of it.
Any new Google algorithm is looked upon with caution, but optimising your website in a way that benefits both your brand and your consumers will boost conversions, and ultimately generate more revenue for your business.