Mobile search has revolutionized the way a lot of us find information and make day-to-day decisions. And Google’s latest update to its search algorithm is recognizing this trend. As of late April, the search giant is now emphasizing results that it determines to be more “mobile friendly” in its search results, which could spell big changes in traffic for thousands of sites.
Mobile search has grown rapidly. In 2014, reportedly 30% of all web searches came from mobile devices. In 2015, it’s already moved past 60% year to date, and is growing at more than ten times the rate of desktop search according to several sources, including The Next Web. Google’s most recent update, which officially took effect on April 21, is designed to respond to this trend. Microsoft’s Bing search engine followed suit with its own updates to mobile searches as well.
The change is considered one of the biggest to come from Google in recent years, and should affect many more searches than past updates have. The so-called “Penguin” update at Google reportedly affected around 4% of global searches, while the bigger “Panda” update supposedly impacted more than 12%. This new mobile update should affect a much larger percentage.
Before its release, the update had plenty of people worried about the potential impacts to businesses and their appearance in search results. Many expressed their fears about Google having such a large influence on what makes a website “mobile friendly.” Before it’s release, the updated quickly earned the nickname “Mobile-geddon.”
The big change is this: searches that are performed on mobile devices will now show results that favor mobile-friendly sites. Google says the goal is to get searchers to be able to more easily find high-quality search results in a mobile situation. According to Google spokeswoman Krisztina Radosavljevic-Szilagyi, they wanted “to make sure people can find content that’s not only relevant and timely, but also easy to read and interact with on smaller mobile screens.”
Should you be worried? Initial reactions seem to be that the change hasn’t necessarily created the levels of chaos implied by the Mobilegeddon label. But according to a study done by online marketing firm Portent, a majority of the Web’s most popular sites may not be mobile friendly. The firm tested 25,000 web pages that were ranked highly for their traffic. The study found that more than 10,000 of them actually failed to meet the mobile-friendly guidelines published by Google.
What can you do to be ready? Having a responsive sight is a good start, but might not be enough on its own. Google also needs to find the site to be completely mobile-friendly. Text needs to be readable without tapping or zooming. Tap targets need to be spaced appropriately. Pages shouldn’t have unplayable content, such as Flash. And pages shouldn’t have horizontal scrolling. If a site’s pages aren’t determined by Google to be mobile-friendly, it may result in significant decreases in mobile traffic from Google Search.
If you’re not able to convert to a fully-responsive site right away, there are steps that can be taken. Because the change is applied on a page-by-page basis, start with your homepage and the most commonly-used areas of your site. Find out if these pages are mobile friendly by using Google’s mobile friendly test tool.
For more tips, check out Google’s blog post on the “top-seven mistakes webmaster make when going mobile friendly”. After you make changes, Google also offers tools that tell its spiders to re-index your site sooner than they normally would have, so your site can make its way back into the mobile search results.
As mobile search continues to grow in importance, make sure your site is easily able to adapt to both mobile and tablet environments. Consider adding content that is optimized for mobile consumption, like shorter headlines, easily readable text, links spaced far enough apart, shorter text blocks, and calls-to-action that don’t appear at the very bottom of a page. Perhaps the bottom line is to use this change as an opportunity to review just how much of your inquiries, or business, is actually now being done by mobile.