On April 21st of this year, Google rolled out what they themselves touted as the biggest algorithm update they have ever released, even bigger than Penguin or Panda in terms of search results disruption. Some people see it as Google’s way of rewarding websites that cater adequately for the user experience of their mobile users.
Others see it as a way of punishing those websites that don’t. Simply put though, this update will have an impact for anyone who has not kept up with the technology their customers are adopting. Or to put it another way: If your website is not mobile friendly, you’re about to pay for it.
Google has been heading in this direction for quite some time while it actively encouraged the idea of mobile friendliness with web design. That is probably because they knew just how disruptive the changes they were making would be. To put it bluntly though, now your time is up. Mobile device search is set to overtake desktop search this year and if search engines were to continue showing non-mobile friendly results to search queries they would soon find their market share fading.
For a bit more insight as to why Google made these changes, take a look here.
If your website has suffered a dip in traffic over the last couple of weeks there is a fair chance it was from the recent algorithm updates. If that is the case then here are a few tips:
A Dedicated Mobile Site is Ok
A mobile site is acceptable (if set up correctly), but responsive web design is better. While a mobile site will work for now (the update doesn’t affect tablet search), you can bet your bottom dollar that it will expand quickly to incorporate the growing tablet and wearable tech trends. This would mean a separate site for each of these devices. A responsive site does just what it says – It responds to the device it’s being viewed on and adapts to it. If you still don’t quite get the advantages of a responsive website over a separate mobile site then here is a refresher.
Going ‘responsive’ will to at least some extent future proof you against any devices not yet on the market. It also ensures that you have a better chance at showing up for local listings on mobile devices, which are known to have higher conversion rates than desktop listings for obvious reasons. So if you are a Brisbane based business which requires location based search traffic this is extremely important.
Get Your Redirects Right
If you insist on having a mobile site or have one already, ensure that your desktop site redirects on a page by page basis. For example, if your site detects that it is being viewed on a mobile device from “yourdomain.com.au/x-product” but then redirects to “m.yourdomain.com.au” you will not be viewed as mobile friendly. “yourdomain.com.au/x-product” should redirect to “m.yourdomain.com.au/x-product”.
Test and Keep Testing
If you go with a responsive site, ensure it is extensively tested. Responsive conversion of an existing site in particular can be tricky. If your site is a bit cluttered with too many images for example, this might translate very badly on a mobile size screen when it is trying to reduce the size. Also, all browsers are not the same. Errors can appear in one browser but not another, so long story short: Once your site is responsive, test it on every device you can think of and in every browser you can think of. View every page, it’s worth it. Importantly, thoroughly test your location/contact pages to ensure mobile navigation will work. There is no point in building an inferior responsive site in the face of this update as it could have the opposite effect to what you’re after.
Those are the main points you need to know for now as far as best practice for web design are concerned. The algorithm is pretty basic but as with Penguin, Panda, Pigeon & Hummingbird (other aspects covering content, inbound links & location listings) do not sit on your laurels on this one. More updates will come and you need to sit up and pay attention if you want to survive and thrive.
Follow your audience, create a great user experience, and all will be well!