Since Google’s February announcement that the next update to its notorious algorithm would be introduced on 21st April 2015, the online community has been clamouring to preempt the ways in which its collective websites are likely to be affected.
Google updates are not unusual, but the way in which it has approached this one has been very different – directly addressing the sea change that mobile technology has had on internet use.
WHAT IS GOOGLE UPDATING AND WHY?
Google, in effect, asks a series of questions of each website it encounters online. ‘Robots’ or ‘spiders’ crawl the web, collecting the answers to these questions and, when you enter a search term into Google’s search engine, it instantaneously serves up the best-fitting results from its collated index of responses.
A vast combination of factors apply – even the time and location at which the search was made are influential – but, in general, the page that most appropriately satisfies your search commands the coveted ‘number 1′ slot on Google’s first page.
The combined criteria that make up Google’s algorithm are, on the most part, kept strictly under wraps – and with good reason. The Search Engine Optimisation (SEO) industry revolves around elevating and then maintaining a high ranking for its clients’ sites through search engines such as Google. Unscrupulous operators find ways to doctor their sites, manipulating the impression that Google’s robots receive, thus unnaturally promoting them in the search results.
The gamble of using such ‘Black Hat’ techniques results only in short-lived outcomes, curtailed by Google updates that aim to serve-up purely relevant websites of the highest quality. Users, therefore, are pleased with Google’s service and are more likely to return to it as their go-to search engine.
WHAT MAKES THIS UPDATE DIFFERENT?
Where the timing and intent of previous Google updates has, at most, been inferred in communications from Matt Cutts, Head of Google’s Webspam Team, this time the unprecedented announcement was made that “Starting April 21, we will be expanding our use of mobile-friendliness as a ranking signal.”
Put simply, this statement implies that websites, as yet not made mobile responsive will be negatively affected in Google searches from April 21st onwards. By disclosing the date, Google gave preparation time for what will inevitably have a significant impact across the web.
WHY IS GOOGLE TARGETING NON-MOBILE-FRIENDLY WEBSITES?
January 2014 saw the first occasion since the advent of the internet that more time was spent online using mobile devices – smartphones, ‘phablets’ and tablets – than on traditional laptop and desktop PCs.
In continuing to honour its mission statement – “organise the world’s information and make it universally accessible and useful” – Google is addressing the fact that, overwhelmingly, users want to engage via mobile devices, and that serving them with sites that make the process inconvenient reflects badly on the service it provides.
HOW DO I KNOW IF MY SITE WILL BE AFFECTED?
Mobile responsiveness has been a buzzword for web designers for the last few years and, during that time, most reputable agencies will have ensured that their clients’ websites have such functionality built-in. Surprisingly, however, there have been some high-profile exceptions!
If in doubt, the most obvious way to check for mobile responsiveness is to view your site on a selection of different devices. Do you have to spend unwarranted time scrolling, rotating and zooming your smartphone to access elements of the site? Does everything appear where it should? Does the resolution of pictures and graphics adapt correctly to the size of the screen?
The more frustrating the browsing experience is, the more likely your site needs adaptation or an overhaul to meet Google’s criteria. Moreover, given the precedence that mobile search now has, your priority should be to satisfy users, which makes mobile responsiveness a ‘must’ in anyone’s book!
To make doubly certain of your site’s mobile-friendliness, Google has even provided this simple URL checker: www.google.com/webmasters/tools/mobile-friendly
WHAT CAN I DO IF MY SITE ISN’T MOBILE FRIENDLY?
The good news about Google updates is that, even if your site does become affected in the short term, taking corrective measures can restore it to its rightful ranking when it is next indexed.
Contact GillGraphics – Web Design Specialists in Todmorden, Hebden Bridge and throughout Calderdale – who will be happy to discuss your situation and compile a quote, free of charge, for any work required.
We look forward to working with you!