Google launched a major update on April 21st which was about extending the use of mobile-friendliness as a ranking signal throughout mobile search results. This change will affect worldwide mobile search results in all languages, and Google says it will have a “significant” impact.

To be precise, this update involves 2 things.

  1. It basically separates Google search results for Mobile and Desktop where in Mobile search results, mobile friendly websites get significant advawill be ranked higher.
  2. This is not as significant as 1st one but it is better to know that from now on, in google search results you will occasionally see content from installed app on your device.

As you can see out of the 2 updates launched, the one with mass impact is about considering mobile friendliness as a ranking signal. Let’s talk more about the important one then.

Will This Affect You?

Possibly Yes. The first thing to do is to use Google’s tool to determine whether you’re mobile friendly or not. It’s easy to use and gives you a quick “Yes” or “No” as to whether your page will pass the check.

Keep in mind is that this tool checks one page only. (Not a site-wide check) You may have several pages on your site that are responsive and mobile-friendly while the rest are not. If your design isn’t mobile responsive site-wide, I would suggest checking each of the most important pages on the site to make sure they pass.

The second thing to consider is how much of your website traffic today is coming via mobile? If this percentage is small (i.e. under 10%) and you’re not yet mobile ready, don’t fret too much. While you may see a significant change in the mobile search results, this should only affect rankings for searches on mobile – desktop results and rankings will likely remain unaffected. (For now). As Mobile local search is going to surpass PC in 2015, sooner is better to go mobile friendly in terms of getting organic search website traffic and better user experience for mobile visitors.

What Can I Do?

If your site did NOT pass the test, you have a few options:

1. Implement A Responsive Theme

Google has already stated that they prefer responsive web design and feel it’s the best option for users. Before exploring this option you should know that this option is suitable for you if you are using any Open source CMS or ecommerce platforms. For custom build websites the other options stated below makes more sense. If you are using any open source CMS platform like WordPress, Drupal or Joomla,  Check out the responsive CMS themes from Themeforest and in case of ecommerce websites check out few ecommerce responsive templates.

Advantages: Google/User preferred, applied across entire site, updated look/feel

Disadvantages: Time consuming, frontloaded work/costs, may lose conversions

2. Have A Designer/Developer Redesign Your Site

If switching themes is just not possible, you can look to hire a designer + developer to switch your current design into one that’s responsive. You’ll end up with a site that looks much like the one you have now with only a few tweaks/changes.

Advantages: Long term solution, Can continue to use current design, no conversion loss

Disadvantages: Most expensive, time consuming, may miss certain pages

3. Create A Mobile Site On A Subdomain

Rather than switching themes or hiring a designer/developer to redesign your current site into one that’s responsive, you can instead opt to create a mobile-specific site on a subdomain. You’ll have the advantage of leaving your current theme alone completely and still providing for a good user experience for those on mobile. i.e. m.YOURSITE.com. In this option too, you will need to hire the designer and developer to build a mobile friendly website from existing website.

Advantages: Can customize for mobile users, cheaper than a full redesign

Disadvantages: Costs and hassle of updating mobile and desktop sites, adjustments required with browser changes

4. Fix Issues That Are Keeping You From Passing The Test

We came across few clients whose  site was built on a responsive theme, but customizations done on theme to build the website restricts from passing the mobile friendly test. In such cases, we merely followed the quality standards and theme documentations to maintain the responsiveness of theme along with the customizations required.

Advantages: Quick/easy fix, least expensive

Disadvantages: Can’t always tell where the issues are, doesn’t always give surety to pass the test

Things To Keep In Mind

1. You should really be building mobile-friendly sites for your users, anyway.

We’ve crossed the tipping point – the majority of digital media consumption now comes through mobile. This may have hit you differently and at different times depending on your niche, but it’s clear where we’re headed. As more and more of your customers are looking for your website or business on their smartphone, it just makes good business sense to give them what they want.

2. This is not a penalty. It may feel that way, though, if you find yourself slipping down the page in mobile search results. The good news here is that because you haven’t been penalized or deindexed, you’re in a much better position to fix the problem and gain back your lost mobile traffic.

Conclusion:

It is quite evident that google’s mobile friendly update is going to affect some way or the other to the mass of website owners. Individually you can evaluate the impact and options shared above to deal with it. Even if google has not presented this, mobile friendly digital presence is anyway instrumental for providing uninterrupted user experience for larger chunk of users who are using mobile and as stated above that chunk is close to 50% now and growing on daily basis. If you already have mobile friendly digital presence, While choosing the right option for you to go mobile friendly, it would be best to go for a solution that is long term in nature.


Here are some more resources to review:

Google’s Mobile Friendly Test

Moz – 9 Things You Need To Know About The Mobile-Friendly Update

FAQs about the April 21st mobile-friendly update

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