Google Mobile-Friendly Update Hits Tomorrow

For some time there has been a new Google update on the horizon, it lands tomorrow and if you don’t have a mobile ready website, beware.

To be fair, there is no excuse for anyone not to have a mobile-friendly website as evidence has consistently shown year on year increases in traffic from mobile devices. It only makes sense for Google to reward those who have taken note of this evidence and want to create a better online experience for their users.

This new update will take effect on the 21st April 2015. It’s not the best notice in the world but it is certainly a better notice than we got for the previous algorithm updates (i.e. so called ‘Panda’ and ‘Penguin’) which is a welcome move for website owners.

For those who haven’t got a mobile-friendly website now is a good time to get one! We have put together a list of top tips to help you and your business survive the latest Google update and make sure you know everything there is to know about this not-so-shocking change.

Who will the Google Mobile-Friendly Update Affect?

The new Google mobile-friendly update will affect all those who have not got a mobile-friendly website. If you are unsure on whether you have a mobile-friendly website or think you have but would like to check anyway, you can do so by entering your URL into the Google Mobile-Friendly Test. Once you have entered in your URL, the tool will then provide you with a simple answer as to whether you have a mobile-friendly website or not. If your website is in fact not mobile optimised, this useful tool will tell you what you can do to fix any issues, as seen below.

google speed test screenshot

What is the Worst That Could Happen?

Are you a bit of a gambler? Are you thinking that Google might just overlook your website? Are you saying to yourself “what’s the worst that could happen”?

The scary thing about this update is that you could see your organic traffic plummet overnight… this is one update I wouldn’t take a gamble on.

Think about it, Google never fully announced the Panda or Penguin updates but this time they have gave us fair warning and have even provided us with tools to help us get prepared. Without scaring you too much… this could be the end of the world as we know it!

The new change will gradually be rolled out on the 21st April 2015 and nobody knows yet the full impact this will have on businesses. You may have already received a notification in Google Webmaster Tools that your website is not mobile-friendly. If this is the case, I would take this as a warning and look to get mobile-friendly ASAP.

By all means there is no need to go out and spend tens of thousands on a fully responsive website. There are a few simpler solutions that can still cost you if you haven’t the skills but won’t be as expensive as a new build. Make sure text isn’t so small that users have to zoom in to read it, make sure users can see all content on the screen without scrolling horizontally and remove any Adobe Flash features. There are other more complex things you can do to improve you mobile site which you can find out more about by reading on.

Why Has Google Made This Update?

Think about it, how many times a day do you Google something on your mobile? I don’t know about you but I am on my mobile ‘Googling’ something every time something piques my interest on the TV or when I am out and about. My mobile hardly ever leaves my side!

Now do you think I would turn my desktop computer on every time I see something on the TV that I want to Google? Can I carry my desktop around with me when I am out and about?… I think not.

More and more people use their mobile phones to browse and buy on the internet which is why I believe Google’s new mobile-friendly update is only fair. If you don’t believe me, you can see for yourself the year-on-year increase on mobile devices below.

comscore-global-users-mobile-friendly-websitesSourced: www.comscore.com

How do You Get Mobile-Friendly?

Before you start panicking and purchasing a fully responsive website for tens of thousands, make sure to check the Google Mobile-Friendly Test and the Google Page Speed Test first to see whether your website already meets Google’s standards. If it does not, there are a number of ways you can get prepared for the update.

  1. Avoid the use of Flash on your mobile site
  2. Make sure links aren’t too close together
  3. Text isn’t too small that users have to zoom in to read it
  4. Decide whether you want to create a separate m.domain.co.uk mobile website or build a new responsive website
  5. Make sure content isn’t wider than the screen resolution so users have to scroll horizontally
  6. Minify JavaScript and CSS
  7. Optimise Images
  8. Minify HTML
  9. Configure the viewport

You will find all recommended changes to help you get mobile optimised on the mobile-friendly and page speed tests provided by Google.

Mobile Website vs Fully Responsive Website

Mobile Website

A mobile website (m.domain.co.uk) is solely for those who come to your website through a mobile device. A mobile website is separate to your desktop website. The mobile website is usually has a shorter number of pages or less content than your desktop would have and so it would be best to have a link to the desktop website in case users want to find more information or use a specific page that isn’t on the mobile site.

Users will automatically be directed to the mobile website even when they type your desktop domain directly into the URL space. It is important to have the link to the desktop site on your mobile site for this reason.

The mobile website is not that expensive to build and will take less time so it may be the better option for those who need something done quickly and within a reasonable budget.

Fully Responsive Website

A fully responsive website is one website that can be made responsive for all devices including mobiles and tablets. This means that all the pages and content you have on your desktop can be seen on mobiles and tablets as it adjusts to fit any screen… clever hey!

Google recommends using responsive websites rather than mobile websites so it very well may be worth investing in… you never know what Google are cooking up next. Whilst the responsive website is that much more expensive than a mobile website, it may be worth it in case you purchase a mobile site now and 10 months later Google releases a new update only supporting responsive websites – in which case you have to pay again.

Conclusion

My only conclusion today is, go and get mobile-friendly… or risk the consequences!

7 comments

  1. Tony PaylorReply

    In today’s cut throat competition on website ranking, this is an important update by Google. It is but obvious that mobile web browsing is going to beat browsing via desktop, just because it is so convenient and can can be used on the go. The feature of Google mobile friendly and speed test is very convenient and useful. Hence it becomes imperative for website owners to become mobile friendly. But then why only Google ? I would like to see other search engines coming up to the standard of Google and giving it some competition.

  2. DanReply

    Interesting article from Matt. I think he really hits the nail on the head; mobile is the future and for too long companies have ignored their mobile presence or seen it as secondary to their online presence, hopefully this update by Google will help change this and we can see a more cohesive, coherent digital presence from companies.

  3. JennReply

    I think people in business should really consider what Matt is saying. Think of all the people you can reach via the mobile world. If people search businesses of interest via their mobile device they are likely going to be checking into those that come up there first. If you are thinking as Matt said “What is the worse that can happen?” Well I guess loss of customers and word of mouth is a very stronger motivator. Mobile is the current way to do things so why not invest in the future by making sure your business has a mobile friendly website.

  4. Jake DellReply

    I find it quite funny how it takes a massive update by Google to get business owners to get their websites up to date! Mobile friendly updates to your website should have been completed years ago. Mobile friendly websites = more sales, more money. I have a winery that relies on Google search for drive in sales. Without a mobile friendly site that makes it easy to find our location, hours, etc… we’d be losing those tastings to someone else. And I have a friend who’s a locksmith and completely revamped his website to mobile friendly as what’s the one thing someone has in their hands when they’re locked out? He definitely noticed an increase in calls and business.

    One other thing to add, make sure you check for coding errors. Google is dinging for bad coding too! We’re using HTML5, CSS3 & Bootstrap on all of our sites now. Here’s a good free resource to use to check your website for errors: http://validator.w3.org/

    Thanks very much for the article Matt.

  5. Ana B.Reply

    Thanks for this news Matt — I had not heard about this until now.

    My first thought was, “Finally!” I think this is a really helpful update from Google. People are always searching and visiting websites from their smartphones and websites need to advance as technology advances. It can be really frustrating to land on a site and the words are too small, the page doesn’t load or scroll correctly, and a host of other issues! Also, the changes you proposed are simple fixes, so website owners have no need to wait to optimize their sites. I’m glad they are getting the push from Google; everyone benefits!

  6. JennyReply

    As the others have said mobile truly is the future of the digital marketplace and so Googles decision to do this update is an important one. It is increasingly important for companies to consider their mobile presence and so this is a step in the right direction as consumers increasingly demand the convenience that mobile (and tablet) browsing offers. As Tony notes as well it would be interesting to see how other companies react and what they are going to do. Who will be the next big player to push the mobile landscape forward?

  7. MandiReply

    Honestly, I think it is a good idea for websites to be mobile friendly because it seems like everyone does google searches on their mobile device now days – I know I have! However, I think it’s kind of silly for a site’s ranking to be lowered just because it isn’t. I say that because what should come up first in the search engine is the most valuable info which is closest to the search term, and not the most mobile friendly site.

    Call me old-fashioned but I only do a search on a mobile device a few times a week, anyway. I usually do searches on the computer. But if I do look up something on my phone and the website isn’t mobile friendly, I would just simply wait to revisit the site once I got to a computer. But then again, I’m odd, I guess! LOL

    But as I mentioned, I do understand the need and that’s why I make sure all of my sites are mobile friendly because I know most people are not odd like me. I had no idea that it would determined how it would be ranked, though. So thanks for this info. Very good to know!

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