There’s less than a week left until Mobilegeddon – Google’s next algorithm update set to take effect on April 21st, so time is running out to make sure your website is adequately prepared. Google has stated that the algorithmic change will have a significant impact in mobile search results and may affect more sites than their Panda or Penguin updates.
Google’s algorithm considers several aspects in order for your site to be determined mobile-friendly. First, it must avoid software that is not common on mobile devices, like Flash. It must also use text that is readable without zooming and sizes content to the screen so users don’t have to scroll horizontally. Links also must be placed far enough apart so the correct one can be easily tapped.
The purpose of the algorithm change is to improve search engine results on mobile devices, but not updating your website could have significant consequences. Websites that aren’t considered mobile-friendly will drop in the rankings or may not even display at all when someone searches for a term on a smartphone or tablet.
This means your website will lose out on valuable search engine traffic coming from mobile devices, which is significant considering there are officially more mobile devices than there are people. Users are also spending more time online on mobile devices than they are on desktop sites, so it’s apparent that the algorithm update is a reflection of current search trends.
For these reasons, it’s obvious that Mobilegeddon cannot be ignored. Though you probably won’t be able to do a whole site redesign in just a week, there are a few things you can do to help save your rankings.
Before You Begin: Assess Your Site
If you haven’t analyzed your website through Google’s Mobile Friendly Test yet, do it now. It only takes a second and you’ll know immediately if Google determines that your page does not have a mobile-friendly design. You can also use the Mobile Usability Report to see all pages with errors that prevent your site from being mobile-friendly.
Google Developers Webmasters Tools has a great resource guide to mobile SEO that has tips on improving mobile-friendliness. It also has a list of common mistakes their developers have noticed on mobile websites. If your site has one of these errors, don’t worry – they also included some quick steps you can take to correct them.
Weigh Your Options
After assessing your website, you should be aware of the elements on your page that prevent it from being mobile-friendly. In most cases, these can be easily fixed by following the given steps in the mobile SEO guide. But if your site hasn’t been updated in a while, a major site overhaul might be necessary.
Google recommends adopting a responsive web design that will automatically adjust to the screen of any device. For many small business owners, this may be a solution that is too far out of reach because of the cost. Responsive web design cost more than basic fixed desktop sites, but is recommended because it requires the least amount of maintenance and there is only one version of each page.
If responsive web design isn’t in your budget, you could also build a separate website optimized for mobile devices. This means you would create separate URLs for different formats, such as m.example.com for a mobile display and www.example.com for a desktop version. Though it is more affordable, mobile-only sites typically have less content and require more frequent updates.
Correct the Common Mistakes
If you already have a mobile site or if you don’t have the resources for a redesign, the best step to take next is to correct the smaller errors. As mentioned earlier, Google’s SEO guide has a list of common mobile site errors with steps to resolve them. Some solutions are more technical than others, but here are some common errors that can easily be fixed:
PROBLEM: Videos won’t load on mobile site
SOLUTION: Use HTML5 standards for animation instead of Flash and video embedding that is playable on all devices.
PROBLEM: Font size looks fine on desktop version, but too small to read on mobile
SOLUTION: Use a base font size of at least 16 CSS pixels, then adjust the size as needed based on the font that is being used. Restrict the number of fonts and font sizes used.
PROBLEM: The mobile page has huge images that slow down the loading time
SOLUTION: Right-click all of your images to view their real size properties and size them down accordingly. Images may look smaller on desktop versions, but slow loading times on mobile versions will hurt your site’s rankings.
PROBLEM: Links to pages within the site redirect to the wrong page on mobile
SOLUTION: Google Webmaster Tools will tell you if there are any faulty redirect links on your website. Go back and edit the faulty URLs so mobile users are redirected to the right page.
PROBLEM: The URL works on the desktop site, but shows a 404 error on mobile
SOLUTION: If a page on your site doesn’t have a version for mobile, it is better to keep your audience on the main page than have links that don’t work. Use responsive web design when possible.
Make a Plan and Monitor What Works
Until the official rollout of the algorithm update, the level of effect these changes have on your site’s location in search results are somewhat speculative. Ignoring these guidelines is a surefire way to wipe your site off the result list, but following them closely isn’t guaranteed to harbor your site at the top either. Keep that in mind when you’re deciding which steps you are going to take to optimize your website for mobile.
If you don’t rely on organic searches to get traffic and only a small margin of your viewers come from mobile devices, it may not be worth the investment (yet). But if you do, mobile optimization is a huge opportunity to gain an edge over your competitors. The online world of information is increasingly becoming more handheld, so developing a website that is mobile-friendly now is critical to maintaining your site’s visibility.