We’ve talked about SEO (search engine optimization) before — and how it’s a vital component to any online marketing strategy. A solid SEO strategy helps your business’s website show up higher in Google, Yahoo, and Bing search results — which dramatically increases your discoverability (and therefore, sales).
But take note: Next week (April 21, to be exact), Google is implementing a major change in how they determine search rankings. And because Google now processes over 3.5 billion searches per day and 1.2 trillion searches per year worldwide, it’s something that all businesses should pay close attention to.
In a nutshell, your website’s mobile friendliness will now be an enormous factor in how high you show up in Google Organic Search results. Mobile will become so important, in fact, that industry leaders refer to Google’s update as “Mobile Pocalypse” and “Google Mobilegeddon”— a reference to how unprepared for the change they expect businesses to be. Scary nicknames, but the update does makes sense — especially when you consider that mobile searches now make up about 30 percent of website traffic, regardless of industry, according to a study by analytics company SEOclarity.
Historically, Google hasn’t announced major updates to its search algorithm until after the fact — resulting in some SEO-scrambling in the weeks after. But this time, they’re thankfully giving people a heads-up, summarizing all the changes in a blog post. This underscores how important they think it is for businesses to prepare. Here are some things you should do to ready your website for the change and make sure you don’t see a drop in your rankings and traffic in the coming weeks:
See where you’re at.
Run your website through Google’s mobile-friendly test.
Get Started with Square Email Marketing
Email marketing software that turns occasionals into regulars
Adjust your design.
If your website isn’t ready, take steps to make sure it displays properly on mobile, using something called responsive design. Basically, responsive design ensures your site looks okay (and is clearly navigable) on all devices — from desktop computers to all breeds of mobile devices (iOS, Android, etc). If this goes beyond your expertise, it’s worth bringing in an expert. A good place to start is the AIGA directory, which is a professional association for design. If you’re on a bootstrap budget, you can purchase a mobile-friendly website template on sites like Themeforest. They’re fairly easy to implement yourself.
Avoid these mistakes.
Google has been helpful in listing some of the most common mistakes in responsive design. If you’re not comfortable identifying and fixing these things yourself, it’s a good idea to consult a professional designer or front-end engineer. Here’s what to avoid:
- Using videos or content not accessible by mobile (this means no Flash).
- Faulty redirects: Don’t redirect mobile users to your homepage or another general interest page by default.
- Using mobile-only page-not-found pages, also called 404s: Showing a page to desktop users but a 404 page to mobile users.
- Cross-linking inappropriately: Mobile pages should link to mobile pages; desktop URLs should link to desktop URLs.
- Slow-to-load mobile pages. Use Google’s PageSpeed Insights tool to ensure your site loads quickly on mobile devices.
As a bonus tip, we also recommend that you register your website with Google Webmaster Tools and Google Analytics. Both are free tools that provide a ton of data to help you glean insights about your website’s performance as well as visitor demographics and behavior. The data also gives you an idea of how much mobile traffic you currently get. Additionally, Google sends you notifications through Webmaster Tools if you don’t meet the mobile-friendliness requirements.
Given that your percentage of mobile visitors is likely to rise (aggressively) in the coming months and years, it’s a good idea to prepare your website for Google’s update on April 21, and also implement a long-term plan for creating a great mobile experience for your customers and prospects. We’ll be posting more tips and tricks on mobile-friendly practices in the coming months, so sign up for Town Square’s monthly newsletter to stay in the know. Once you’re armed with knowledge, “Mobilegeddon” won’t sound so intimidating anymore.