April 21st 2015 will herald what is being dubbed the biggest Google update yet. From this date, Google will start penalising websites that are not 'mobile friendly'. But what does this actually mean, how do you know if your site is mobile friendly, and what can you do if it isn't? In this article we answer the most popular questions people are asking about the latest search engine update.
Every so often, Google rolls out what are known as 'algorithms'. These are sets of rules that govern the way the search engine ranks websites. This latest algorithm which will come into force as of 21st April will see the mobile friendliness of websites used as a ranking factor. In a nutshell, that means that if a website page doesn't display well on a mobile device such as a smartphone or tablet, it will be penalised with a drop in rankings.
The fact that so many people browse the internet using mobile devices is what's behind Google's move. Having always pushed the fact that their core focus is on delivering the ultimate search experience, they believe that with such a significant number of tablet users – 25 million in the UK alone – and such a high volume of them (50%) using such devices as their primary internet source – the mobile friendliness of a website has to be considered when presenting search results.
A mobile friendly website is one that provides a pleasant user experience on a tablet or smartphone. Pages will load quickly, content will be easily readable, links will be well spaced out so users don't frustratingly tap the wrong ones and video content will play without issue. The width of the page displayed will be suitable for the screen on which it is being viewed, so users won't have to scroll from side to side to read content.
Google will look at a variety of factors, but in essence, they have said pages will either be mobile friendly, or they won't. The good news is that the algorithm will work on a page by page basis which means an entire site should not be penalised if it only has a few pages that aren't mobile friendly.
The other plus point is that the ranking factor will run in real time. This means that as soon as Google detects a page has been made mobile friendly, it will allow it to benefit from the mobile ranking factor.
One way to check if your website is mobile friendly is to open it on a desktop browser and shrink the width to see how it would look on a smaller screen. Alternatively, you can use the Google Mobile Friendly Test tool. Just type in your web address and it will analyse your page and return the results. If it is not mobile friendly, you will be given a list of reasons, together with steps to follow to rectify the issue.
There is the option to run a mobile version of your website alongside your desktop version, however this doubles your hosting and maintenance costs, and re-directing users to what is in effect a different website is not desirable.
The best solution, however, is to upgrade to a responsive website. A responsive website adapts to any platform on any device: smartphone or tablet, any operating system: iOS, Android or Blackberry and any make, for example Apple, Samsung or HTC. It also displays perfectly on desktop computers and laptops.
If you are considering having your website redesigned, then you should seriously consider a responsive site. Even if you are not yet ready for a new website, you should give plenty of consideration to upgrading to responsive. Google's update will take around a week to come into effect after April 21st. If you are currently enjoying good rankings, and have invested greatly to achieve them, you won't want to lose them. Similarly if you are aiming to achieve high rankings, you won't do so without a mobile friendly website.
For quality responsive website design that will help you keep your valuable Google rankings, talk to Core Media Design.
Core Media Design Ltd
48 Great Western Street
Frome, Somerset, BA11 1FZ