Mobilegeddon has come—Why you should care about Google’s latest update

Every year, Google likes to stir the search engine optimization (SEO) pot. Going by the innocent moniker of “update,” Google updates are really more like directives, instructing digital marketing and SEO companies on what their new priorities will be for the next few months. Often, this entails reversing one or more long-standing SEO convictions and frustrating marketing companies that just got done recommending the opposite to their clients. Welcome to the essence of corporate digital presence. #c’estlavie

April 20 was no different. In its typical fashion, Google announced mobile search was big enough that we should all care, and thus, we now all do. The next day, the update rolled out. Some call it “mobilegeddon.” I call it a reason for business owners to pay attention.

In case you missed it (or had better things to do, like run your business), here’s a super-condensed version of what you should care about:

  • Sites that are “mobile friendly,” meaning they work and look good on phones, tablets, etc., will now get a boost in search engine rankings.
  • Sites that aren’t “mobile friendly,” won’t.

The Google has spoken—What’s it mean?

What that second part is really saying is that mobile unfriendly sites will, in essence, be penalized. Google knows more than half of all searches are now done on mobile devices. To stay relevant to its end user, Google needs to make sure sites it recommends look good on small screens, so you can kiss that page 1 ranking goodbye unless your site looks good on my iPhone.

Interestingly, 44 percent of Fortune 500 companies’ sites are mobile unfriendly, according to a recent TechCrunch survey. But many of those companies couldn’t care less about search results—no sheikh is going to pass up on ConocoPhillips’ website because Google popped up ExxonMobile in the first spot. But what about Bob’s Bakeshop or Anne’s Architecture? You better believe this is going to affect those two, and perhaps you as well.

So, now what? First, check to see if Google likes your site. Here’s a handy tool. If you pass, congratulations, you get a gold star. If not, read on. Actually, read on anyway.

Become responsive (design-wise) to your audience’s needs

Responsive Web design is your first defense. Most sites are first designed with regular, desktop computers in mind. However, your site needs to look good on both large screens and small, and the way to do this is through a site design that can adjust itself based on the visitor’s screen size. Web geeks like to point to Pinterest as a great example, but I think Walmart, Yahoo!, and yes, Google, all do a swell job of pointing us in the right direction, too.

Need more explanation? Ask your friendly, local Web designer for more information!

Get to the point with concise writing

Have lots to say? Well, figure out how to say less. People don’t read these days; they scan. Mobile users don’t scan; they scroll. The fact is, shorter attention spans mean you have less time to get your message across, so you’d better get to your point. This advice has been true for years now, but even more so with the advent of Internet browsing while at the restaurant with friends—you know who you are.

Because mobile users have less time (or desire) to read walls of text, make sure your message is concise. Your service page should say what you sell, but leave the details for your sales people. Do you have an interesting story about how your company started? Can you tell me it within 200 words? Granted, some pages need the length, but if you want to get long-winded, break up the content using bullet points, subheadings, and expandable lists.

Get a dose of your own mobile medicine

Bottom line is, look at your own site through a mobile browser. Chances are, anything that annoys you about it is annoying your visitors, too. Analyze what parts of your site work as intended, and be thorough.

  • Is your contact form working? What about the navigation?
  • Are you staring at a blank page? Maybe your site uses unsupported programming languages like Flash or Javascript.
  • How long are you waiting for everything to load? Mobile Internet is typically slower than broadband, so images, movies and sounds take longer to load.
  • Do all the fonts look as they should? Mobile devices don’t usually have the benefit of myriad fonts like desktop users do.

Furthermore, look for opportunities that may not make sense when your site is viewed on a desktop.

  • Make a link out of your company phone number so that a phone autodials it when a user touches it.
  • Provide directions and an interactive map that can guide a phone’s GPS.

Mobile is a fact, not a trend

Regardless of whether your site is prepared, mobile use is here to stay. Google’s update didn’t actually bring anything new to the table; it simply reminded businesses that ignoring mobile demand is like sticking one’s head in the sand. If your site relies on search result placement, it’s time to optimize your site for mobile use so you can avoid “mobilegeddon.”

Marek Biernacinski is the president and CEO of Words by a Pro, a longtime friend of Imagine. To contact Marek, click here.

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