Before we dive into the nitty gritty of this latest algorithm update, it’s worth understanding exactly what Google is all about:
Google’s number one goal is to give their users (people who search for things in Google) the best possible user experience. Each time you search for something via their site, they want to deliver the most relevant results for your needs fast, so you can get on with your day as quickly as possible.
Over the past few years, Google has come to recognise that a huge amount of searching is being done via mobile devices. Thus it’s become important to them that if they’re sending someone to your site, your website is easy to view on a mobile device.
This desire for mobile-friendliness underpins this latest update.
So when is this update taking place?
Google have announced that it will be taking place on 21 April. That’s presumably US time and the update is said to be rolling out over a period of days. So here in Australia we might not get the full effect of it until 22 or 23 April. If you monitor the traffic to your website, it would be sensible to pay close attention from 21 April.
This is a good time to take note that Google do not usually announce the specific date of an upcoming update to their ranking algorithm. The fact they have given not only a specific date in this instance, but also so much prior warning, indicates that this particular update is going to be significant.
What elements of my site will Google be looking at?
If you’ve ever visited a website on a mobile device and found it doesn’t resize to fit your screen, has barely readable text, and links that are hard to click on, you’ll be familiar with what Google considers ‘poor user-experience’. Google doesn’t want websites that deliver poor user experience showing up in their search results.
Put simply: if your site does not function well on a mobile device, Google will not show it when people search in Google.
Here are some of the elements of mobile-friendliness Google will be looking at:
- Size of text
- How easy the font is to read on smaller screens
- Spacing of your touch elements eg how close links are together
- Page load time from a mobile device
- Whether your site is responsive (it changes size depending on the screen size it’s being viewed from)
- If you have a mobile version of your site, you’ll potentially be penalized if it links through to pages that are not mobile-friendly (very common for mobile versions of websites)
How do you know if you will be impacted?
You can use the Mobile Friendly Test. All you need to do here is enter the URL of any page on your site and you can check each page individually.
If your site has numerous pages, the Mobile Friendly Test can be quite a time-intensive process. Fortunately, Google has a tool to help bulk-check your site.
If your site is setup in Google Webmaster Tools, you can generate a complete site report that will identify how many of your pages (if any) are currently not mobile-friendly and therefore putting your site’s Google rankings at risk of plummeting.
It’s important to note that these tests are not without flaws and you may get a false-positive or false-negative. If you’re at all unsure, check with your web designer or someone that can take a quick look at your site prior to the update.
How might I be impacted?
Officially, 27.51% of internet usage in Australia is done on a mobile device. In some industries, mobile device searches on Google are significantly higher. For example if you offer emergency plumbing services, car towing services and other “I really need help now” types of services, the majority of people that come to your website ready to buy, will be doing so on a mobile device.
It’s unclear yet how this update is going to unfold and impact. If your site is non mobile-friendly we do not know yet whether that means you’re going to take a hit in Google rankings across the board (including for desktop searches), or if it’s only going to be limited to searches on a mobile device.
With an update that shapes to be potentially the biggest of 2015, it’s important to act now and check your site via the resources provided by Google and referenced above.
If you’re unsure of how to do that, reach out to an online marketing professional or your web designer (both of whom will no doubt be very busy over the coming weeks helping people to get their websites update-ready).
Is your site ready for this latest Google update?