Google Mobile SearchTwo months ago the internet was set ablaze when Google announced that on April 21, 2015 there would be a significant search algorithm update to include mobile-friendliness as a ranking signal. This was no ordinary announcement by Google. In fact, it was one of the first times in recent history where Google gave webmasters an advanced “look behind the curtains” at an algorithm change. Such an unprecedented announcement could only mean one thing: there would be major changes to mobile search rankings coming. Those that don’t meet Google’s mobile-friendliness threshold would undoubtedly be caught in the crosshairs and suffer a loss in mobile traffic – something that most businesses simply cannot afford.

Cue the alarm bells and widespread panic. With countless rumors, articles and dissenting viewpoints online, it can be challenging for marketers to cut through the noise and develop an action plan.

Here’s a marketers guide to understanding the facts, assessing your current situation and developing a mobile SEO action plan.

Why You Should Care about Mobile SEO
How much traffic does your website get from mobile devices? How about ecommerce sales or leads from form submissions? If you’re like most businesses, chances are a quick look at your web analytics will reveal that you’ve been experiencing a continuous increase in mobile activity on your site. Depending on your current business situation, mobile traffic might be critical to the bottom line of your business. But how do you keep that mobile traffic coming? That’s where mobile SEO comes in. Optimizing your site for mobile search goes way beyond title tags and meta descriptions. Usability, design, content, links and local SEO all come into play. Google’s algorithm update really hones in on usability (more on that in a bit), but the point is that mobile SEO isn’t a once-and-done thing.

As a marketer, the first step is to understand the current value of your mobile traffic in dollars and cents. From there, work toward a valuation of the opportunity gained or lost through mobile SEO, taking Google’s mobile-friendly ranking updates into account. If you need help determining this, here’s a handy guide to help you estimate lost mobile traffic.

Understanding Google’s Mobile-Friendly Updates
On April 21, 2015, Google will be using mobile-friendliness as a ranking signal. Put simply, if your website does not meet Google’s criteria for mobile-friendliness, it’s likely that your non-friendly pages will suffer a loss in rank (and subsequently search traffic).

It’s important to note that this only affects  mobile searches – not desktop or tablet searches. The affects of the algorithm also happen at the page level. If some pages on your site are mobile-friendly while others are not, only those that aren’t mobile-friendly will experience a potential loss in ranking.

Google’s mobile-friendly algorithm update really focuses on mobile usability. Some of the primary factors include the following:

  • Having a mobile-friendly design (i.e. a responsive site or a dedicated mobile site).
  • Ensuring that touch elements are spaced properly and font size is readable.
  • Enabling Google to crawl your site, including JavaScript and CSS files. In addition, broken links should be fixed.
  • Reducing mobile page load and page speed times. A big culprit in high load times can be images or interactive media, so make sure to double check your file sizes.

Is Your Site Mobile-Friendly?
In order to assess the mobile-friendliness of your site, Google has developed a mobile-friendly test that’s quite easy to use. Simply enter your website or dedicated mobile site and click “analyze”. The results will help you determine what, if anything, needs to be fixed to comply with Google’s mobile-friendly algorithm updates.

The feedback you receive can vary in implementation complexity. For example, going responsive will take time, whereas simply ensuring Google can crawl your JavaScript and CSS files is easy. After you create your list of updates, you should prioritize them by impact and ease of implementation.

In addition to this, you should make sure that you have signed up for Google Webmaster Tools. Google Webmaster Tools offers a mobile usability report as well as automated email alerts that will help you stay ahead of mobile SEO challenges.

For additional questions on mobile SEO, please feel free to drop us a line. Good luck in conquering mobilegeddon!