Mobile Sites: Why Google is Giving You an Ultimatum

Brant Kelsey / March 25, 2015

In their quest to remain the #1 search engine on Earth and provide visitors with the most relevant search results, Google has finally announced they’ll be making some big changes on April 21 – expanding their use of mobile-friendliness as a ranking signal.

Google is in the game of giving its customers what it wants, when they demand it. It has to. For Pete’s sake, Google is a verb! Google it! 

All kidding aside, Google’s entire business model is based on data – from search engine, to Google Adwords, to Gmail, to Google Docs, to Google Analytics, and more. They want to control as much of the world’s information (or at least know where it is), and then learn as much about it as possible – who’s linking to it, who wrote it, how many times its been looked at. All of this data is needed to provide a searcher the best possible information and link to it as fast as possible.

What do mobile-friendly websites have to do with this?

It’s all about customer experience. As a customer of Google, you demand to get fast, relevant results when you do a search. If you don’t, you might be tempted to go try your search on Bing or Yahoo. If that happens, Google’s whole business model suffers. For instance, they can no longer serve you Adwords ads in the sidebar of search results (which they hope you’ll click).

Translate this to what happens when you do a search on your mobile phone. If you’re in a hurry and each of the results Google brings back requires you to pinch, pull and zoom a website on your mobile device, you’ll be annoyed. Google wants us to provide a better customer experience on our own sites, which in turn keeps them in business. It truly is a symbiotic relationship. If we do this for them, they will continue to suggest our sites to their search engine users if we do so.

That’s great, but I don’t care about Google.

This is a game of give and take. Without search engines, our sites are largely invisible. Sure you can use more traditional methods to get your website seen by customers, but a majority of your traffic comes from Google.

This search engine rankings game has been going on since 1998 and shows no signs of slowing down. Website optimization, search optimization and site analytics are critical to the success of your website. If you’re ignoring any of those, you’re probably losing visitors.

This new Google algorithm change coming April 21 will penalize those websites that do not have a mobile-friendly experience available.

Penalize is probably a harsh word. They will more than likely give preference to a site that will provide the same information in a mobile-friendly format. Suppose you have two competitors in the same town that are dry cleaners. The one with a mobile site will probably begin migrating higher in the search results than the one that does not.

How do I know if I’m ready?

Get out your phone and look! Seriously, this is dead simple stuff and will tell you a lot. Oh, and don’t forget your tablet too. Your site needs to look good on tablets like the iPad, too.

If you don’t have these handy to check, Google has made a quick and easy tool you can use to test your site.

Things Google is Likely to look for.

There are a few obvious things that Google will probably look for, and you should make sure you are doing:

1) Mobile Friendly Display
A mobile site typically comes in two flavors, a separate mobile site, or one that is built as a “responsive design.” Either one is fine, Google doesn’t have a preference.

2) Speed
Although it’s getting better, mobile phones are still slower than their desktop counterparts. Your site should be optimized to load extremely fast in low-bandwidth situations.

3) “The App Con”
Ever gone to a website and they suggest you download their app for a better experience? My prediction is Google will begin cracking down on this. It’s a poor customer experience, and it doesn’t benefit Google. Remember, they want to see what you have so they can send you more traffic.

By all accounts, this sounds like the most significant Google update regarding mobile to date. I’m sure it won’t be the last. If your site is not mobile and you miss the bus on this first update, make a plan immediately to begin development. Your business can’t afford to lose this traffic!

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