Mobile Friendly – Google’s new Algorithm Update
On April 21st 2015, Google will expand its “mobile-friendly” search result rankings. The company says that these changes will have an even bigger impact on search than either of the Panda or Penguin algorithm updates. To put that in context, the Penguin update affected about four percent of global searches, while Panda impacted about 12 percent of English-language searches. So ‘mobile friendly’ will have an even ‘bigger’ impact? Naturally this new update has the attention of everyone in the SEO community right now.
Put simply, from the 21st April 2015, Google will evaluate each page on your site and determine if it is mobile friendly or not. There are no gradations of mobile friendliness – each page is either mobile friendly, or it is not.
Note how we are referring to ‘each page’ and not the overall website. That’s because it is possible to have a website where some pages pass the mobile friendly test, while others don’t. The only thing that is not possible is for a page to be somewhat mobile friendly. As mentioned already, each page will either pass or fail the mobile friendly test.
According to Jayson DeMers, founder and CEO of AudienceBloom. “Websites that aren’t mobile-friendly will see a more negative impact in search visibility than they may already be seeing, and mobile-optimized sites may be rewarded even greater in search rankings.”
For those of you that like yes-and-no answers to your questions, I apologise; This one is a little tricky, but the short answer is yes, it will affect desktop search results.
Let me briefly explain: One of the most significant SEO ranking factors is traffic. Assuming you are getting quality traffic (for example, traffic without huge bounce rates), then the more of it the better. If you are negatively affected by the Mobile Friendly update and your page tumbles down the search results then that will almost certainly reduce your traffic and with it your overall SEO.
Another factor that affects SEO is quality backlinks. If you have taken the time to acquire relevant, high quality backlinks then these are giving you an SEO benefit. However, if other bloggers, content managers or website admins can’t find your content (because it has fallen down the search results), then it is likely that your assiduous link building strategy will become extremely challenging.
Google have provided a simple test which allows you to identify whether a page is deemed mobile friendly or not by the search engine. Simply go to Google’s Mobile Friendly Tester, pop your page URL in and press ‘Analyze’. In less than one minute you’ll have your answer!
The penalty for failing to provide a mobile friendly page, pertinent to a specific keyword search, is difficult to quantify, largely because Google haven’t told us that exactly. However, estimates vary from between having an almost negligible one percent negative impact, to having a very damaging forty-five percent impact.
As mentioned in the introduction to this article, Google itself says that this change will have a bigger impact than either the Panda or Penguin updates, so it is not unreasonable to expect a penalty in excess of twelve percent for failing to deliver a mobile friendly page. This has the potential to significantly change the search results for any given set of keywords and is why some commentators are referring to the update as Mobilegeddon.
There are a couple of factors to consider when setting out to address any pages that fail the mobile friendly test. We would encourage you to consider all of your options and find the best approach for you. The term ‘mobilegeddon’ seems to have created a panic, with companies rushing to be compliant before the April deadline. It is unwise to rush web design / development projects, so first take a breath and look at some of options we have set out below.
Turn Over One New Leaf
Firstly, in the short term, you can look at fixing a few pages, rather than your whole site. For example, maybe you need to get your homepage mobile friendly as this is where you have loaded up so many of your backlinks, on-page SEO techniques and keyword focus. You can then look at the bigger picture when the panic has passed.
Preach to the Converted
Secondly, you can talk to your web developers. If your site is only a couple of years old, then maybe they can convert it to a mobile friendly version for you. The cost of this is too variable to safely estimate here. However, We only recently completed a conversion of this kind and it came to approximately 30% of the cost of having a new website implemented for the client.
Something Old, Something New
Thirdly, you can build a brand new website that is fully compliant and mobile friendly. If you aren’t too fussy about design, you might be able to purchase a pre-existing, off-the-shelf solution and then pay a developer / designer to make some tweaks to the aesthetic for you. This will allow for some of your own styling / branding and a look & feel that is consistent with your corporate identity.
If you wish for a completely bespoke design, built entirely from scratch, then obviously that is going to cost more as the design consultancy and graphic work has to be factored in, as well as any features that you may want added (I mean beyond a simple contact form, of course). However, this way you get exactly what you want and have an individuality that shows others you are serious about your web presence.
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