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MOBILEGEDDON: It came. It saw. But did it conquer?

May 27, 2015

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In the past couple of months, we’ve encountered a lot of hype and a lot more confusion about Google’s algorithm change for mobile optimization. We’d like to take a moment to address a lot of the concerns we’ve been seeing as an online marketing and web design company, and help you understand how this may or may not affect your online search presence.

April 21st was the roll-out date for Google’s mobile-friendly algorithm update. Basically, Google began using a website’s mobile-friendly status as a factor in ranking the site in a search result. The idea is to provide the user with more relevant, higher-quality results for searches made on their mobile device. (note: read below on the difference between mobile and desktop rankings)

What really happened?
All of the build-up predicting drastic changes and rankings plummet for non mobile-friendly sites… Well, it actually hasn’t happened. The algorithm update may have been completed, but the process of reindexing the sites took a little longer. Reindexing of the sites was supposed to have happened by mid-May. It’s also been reported that even a week after the update, mobile users had experienced about only a 30% delivery of mobile-only results. So far, huge shifts or changes have not been seen in the rankings, but it could just be a matter of time.

Eventually, all websites should be mobile-friendly. Many companies tend to put it off for various reasons: a tight budget, low priority, or maybe the bulk of their traffic is not from mobile devices. However, whether it’s now or later, mobile-optimization can only help in the long run, as it’s quickly becoming the leading way in which you can engage with your customers on a regular basis. In fact, Google just released data indicating that mobile searches now surpass desktop searches.

If you haven’t optimized your website for mobile devices, the following common questions regarding this algorithm may answer some of your questions, and perhaps quell some of your anxieties.

If my site is not mobile-friendly, will my desktop rankings suffer?
Simply, no. The new algorithm affects mobile rankings only. With ever-increasing mobile usage for online searches, the new algorithm is designed to deliver not only higher-relevancy results, but results that are easily viewed on a mobile device.

Additionally, the new algorithm indexes a website’s pages individually. This means that if one of the pages within a website is more optimized than another, that particular page will list higher in the rankings. Even if every page of your website is not optimized, your website as a whole will get some visibility through the pages that are optimized.

What if I still haven’t optimized my website for mobile use?
April 21st came and went. The world didn’t end. However, depending on what kind of traffic your website sees, it should help you prioritize the urgency for a mobile-friendly design.

What you’ll want to do first is an analysis of mobile traffic to your site. If mobile devices do not account for a significant chunk of your traffic, then the need for mobile-friendly optimization is not immediate. However, once a significant amount of your site traffic is coming from mobile devices (as to be determined by you and your marketing team), and your site is not mobile-optimized, you should consider making that a priority… asap. The harder it is for someone to navigate your site on a mobile device, the less likely they are to stay on your site, and ultimately, you will lose the ability to engage with that user.

How do I know if my website is mobile-friendly?
If you’re not sure whether your website is mobile-friendly, there are a couple of ways to find out. Google has provided their Mobile-Friendly Test Page, a tool that says whether or not your site is mobile-friendly. While it does not indicate how mobile-friendly your site is, it will let you know if it passed the Google test.

Another way to check if your site is mobile-friendly is to just look it up on a mobile device. If it is, the SERP result will indicate “mobile-friendly” right next to your listing.

How should I make my website mobile-friendly?
There are a few options when it comes to making a website optimized for mobile use.

Responsive Design
The responsive design is the most efficient, and the one most favored by Google. Your website has the same URL, but the website’s appearance responds differently based on the screen size. Google favors it because there is only one URL and one site that their bots have to crawl and index. Users also appreciate it because the appearance of the website is uniform, whether viewed on a mobile device or on a desktop. The added plus for you is it’s a time-saver only having to manage one website (versus the Mobile-Only Website option, as discussed below).

The only possible downside to this may be that the actual change to make your website responsive can be quite an investment given that you’ll likely need to rebuild your website. However, the ROI will be evident if indeed a significant portion of your traffic is garnered through mobile devices.

Dynamic Serving
The dynamic serving format uses the same URL, but a different HTML format depending on the device. Once the type of device is determined, the appropriate format will be delivered to the device. Google admits that this approach isn’t entirely error-free, but it will pass Google’s mobile-friendly test.

Mobile-Only Website
The last option is to have a separate website just for mobile use. With this set-up, as the device is detected, it is redirected to the appropriate website.

There are some drawbacks with this option. You’ll need to manage the content for both the desktop and mobile design. Additionally, Google will have to crawl both versions of the site and determine which one is more relevant.. Lastly, if a link is shared through social media, for example, it may be frustrating for a user if they happen to click a mobile-only link through their desktop, or vice-versa. A savvy developer could find work around to this using re-directs, so make sure if you are considering this option you consult with your developer and make sure these concerns are taken into account.

My website is not mobile-friendly… yet. Is it really that urgent?
Like we mentioned before, this all depends on your traffic. In this case, sooner is generally better than later, but you should also look at the big picture.

If you’ve determined that your sales or conversions will not be drastically affected by the mobile-optimization algorithm change, then you can afford to wait for awhile. You may want to consider if your business is seasonal. If so, it’s best to undergo the changes in an off-season, as you do not want to risk losing business from a website re-design.

Why the algorithm change?
The most obvious reason for the change is to accommodate the upward trend for online searches via mobile devices. The easier it is to navigate a website on a mobile device, the better experience it is for the user.

Of course, Google is a business as well. Google ads have not seen the same click rates as on a desktop design. With more and more traffic funneled through mobile devices, it makes best business sense for them reward websites that are mobile-optimized by ranking them higher in mobile searches.

iOVA can help!
If you’re ready to make the change or need help with other website design, SEO services, social media management, and/or content writing, iOVA Communications has a knowledgeable team of experts in-house ready to assist you. For more information, check out or give us a call 1-805-856-1502 to discuss how we can help your business grow!

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