How to prepare for Google’s mobile search results update

If you’re website is registered with Google Webmaster Tools, over the last few weeks you may have received an email alert from Google regarding the mobile-friendliness of your website, or lack thereof…

Google have recently announced that they will be updating their mobile search results to benefit websites that are optimised for mobile devices, and as a result, this is likely to have a negative impact on mobile search results for websites that are not optimised for mobile devices…

This update is due for release on 21 April 2015, and there is a lot of discussion surrounding the expected penalisation of non-mobile friendly websites.

So what does this actually mean for your and your website?

A “mobile friendly” website is one that adapts its layout and functionality to suit being viewed and interacted with on mobile devices, i.e. smartphones and tablets.

This is different to just a smaller version of your website displaying on a mobile device. Yes, it still displays on the device, and can be used, but it is more difficult, as buttons and links are small, text is small and difficult to read etc.

For example, the Scout website is optimised for mobile devices (also known as “mobile responsive” in that it responds to suit the device it is viewed on). If you view it on a desktop or laptop computer, it looks like this:

scout-digital-marketing-website-desktop-view

If you view it on a smartphone, it looks like this:

scout-digital-marketing-website-mobile-device-view

Get it?

Also, this does not mean that if your website is not optimised for mobiles, that it will disappear from Google’s search results completely, just that it won’t be as prominent in Google’s mobile search results.

And while we can get all up in arm’s about Google being horrible and controlling what we find… it makes sense! When you’re looking for information on a mobile device, you want it to be easy to read and interact with.

There are a lot of statistics flying around about mobile internet usage, and you will probably know from your own use that mobile internet use is on the increase.

Research shows that:

  • 58% of mobile phone users search on their smartphones every day…
  • 90% of smartphone users have used their mobile to look for local information, and 86% have taken actions as a result.
  • 56% look for local information at least once a week, and 24% look for for local information daily.

Mobile internet use statistics source.

Are these users looking for your business, products and services…?

So what should you do?

1. Check if your website is optimised for mobile

The first thing to do is understand whether or not your website is optimised for mobile, also known as “mobile responsive”.

You can test a few pages using Google’s Mobile Friendly Test: https://www.google.com/webmasters/tools/mobile-friendly/

If you’re not registered with Google Webmaster Tools already, you can register, and receive the full Mobile Usability Report: https://www.google.com/webmasters/tools/mobile-usability

You can also check out Google’s Guide to Mobile Friendly Websites: https://developers.google.com/webmasters/mobile-sites/get-started/

2. Check your Google Analytics

Review your Google Analytics and see how many of your current website visitors are viewing your site from mobile devices.

As mentioned, mobile internet use is on the increase, but this is a good way of determining how important mobile friendliness is to your website right now.

For example, some business-oriented websites tend to be visited by people while they are at work, from desktop and laptop computers, and mobile internet visitation is very low.

While others – such as tourism and hospitality business websites – are searched for by people on the go, who are looking for somewhere to eat or stay, or something to do. So mobile optimisation is very important to their website and users.

And if your website doesn’t have Google Analytics or another website analytics installed, stop everything and do that… right now!

3. Think about your product or service, and your audience

Armed with the above information about your users, think about how important mobile optimisation is to your business, and also how your users use your website from different devices.

For example, mobile internet users and searchers tend to be more action oriented, looking for contact details that allow them to take action immediately: visit, call, buy.

However if your website is mobile optimised, they may also be more inclined to browse some content, e.g. blog posts.

Whereas desktop and computer users tend to have more time and will browse more information.

These are stereotyped behaviours though. The best approach is to review your Google Analytics and see what pages your mobile visitors are viewing, and use this and your specific business information to plan.

Again, mobile internet use IS on the increase, so don’t ignore it, but this will also help you plan how to best manage your website, for your users.

4. Speak to your website designer and developer

Now armed with knowledge, chat to your developer about your website and visitor requirements.

They will likely have some useful suggestions as well, and together you can plan when and how to best update your website to suit visitors from all devices, and keep Google happy.

Together you can plan when and how to best update your website for mobile search and visitors, e.g. update your existing website, or plan and develop a new website that is optimised for mobile devices.

5. Consider your other online accounts

Your website IS very important, but your business likely has other online accounts that are indexed with Google and will return in both desktop and mobile search results, e.g. your social media accounts (Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Instagram etc), especially Google+ business pages and Google+ Local pages.

Google+ Local pages are very important for businesses that have physical locations, as these are the results that appear on Google Maps.

And Google being Google, it loves anything Google and tends to give preference to these accounts in search results. So even if your website is not optimised for mobile, Google+ Local and business pages will display in mobile search results. So claim and optimise them!

6. Consider Google Adwords campaigns

If you can’t optimise your website for mobile, and mobile search results are important to you, consider running some Google Adwords campaigns, targeted specifically to mobile devices. This will help ensure you don’t disappear from Google’s mobile search results after 21 April 2015.

7. Don’t just update and forgetaboutit…

Like regular SEO, you can’t just “set and forget” once your website is optimised. If you aren’t regularly updating your website with relevant, new and interesting content, it will gradually drop down the rankings, whether it is optimised for mobile or not.

So make sure you continue to invest in your website, as it shows Google (and other search engines) that you care about your website and users!

The most important thing is to not be scared about this update, but arm yourself with relevant information and use it to update and improve your online presence, keeping your audience and their needs at the front of your mind.

If you have any questions about this update, search engine optimisation, social media marketing, Google Adwords campaigns, or anything else, don’t hesitate to contact us. We’re here to help!

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