Should I Care? #3 “Mobilegeddon” – Google’s Mobile Algorithm

In the “Should I Care?” series we present topics that seem to be on the minds of many folks at the nonprofits with whom we work. In these blog posts, we’ll try to answer the basic question of whether it’s something you should care about or not and, if so, what you might want to do about it.

These posts are not meant as definitive answers to the questions we explore, but as our collective RoundTable “quick take” on the matter. We hope these blogs will spark discussion and give you more insight on the chosen topic.

For this post we’re taking on the so-called “Mobilegeddon,” or Google’s search algorithm update that gives search rank preference to sites that are mobile optimized for searches done on a mobile phone.

With more and more users viewing online content on phones, all nonprofits have some percentage of their website traffic being conducted on phones. Today’s question is: what exactly has Google done, what does this change actually mean,  and how will this change affect you?

 

Google’s announcement read:

“Starting April 21, we will be expanding our use of mobile-friendliness as a ranking signal. This change will affect mobile searches in all languages worldwide and will have a significant impact in our search results. Consequently, users will find it easier to get relevant, high quality search results that are optimized for their devices.”

The most important thing to remember is that this change only affects searches conducted on a phone. NPR quoted a Google representative who explained:

“The intent of the search query is still a very strong signal — so if a page with high quality content is not mobile-friendly, it could still rank high if it has great content for the query. The [search] ranking update will not make it rank below lower quality pages that are mobile friendly.”

So, should you care?

We at RoundTable think you should care of if any of the following apply to your organization:

  • Is your site not optimized for mobile? (Keep in mind that Google’s definition of a mobile-friendly site is a site that reflows and is readable on a smaller screen.) Take the test here.
  • Is a significant portion (let’s say 20% or more) of your overall web traffic coming to your site via a search on a mobile device?
  • Are you competing for search rankings with other organizations or companies whose sites are optimized for mobile?

If you took the test and see some problems but don’t know how to interpret the results, one place to start is to contact the developer who created your site.

If you have Google Analytics installed for your site and you have some Google Analytics know-how, you can go to the Audience’s > Mobile Overview screen in your Google Analytics account and add “Source Medium” as a “secondary dimension”. If the number of people coming to your site via search on a phone is significant to you, and your site is not mobile-optimized, then yes, we think you should either consider making an upgrade to your site a high priority, or prioritize assessing and fixing the problems on your site as soon as your budget and time allows. John Haydon, offers step-by step visuals on how to  review the mobile-friendliness of your site. (See Heather Mansfield’s blog post for more on “responsive” design, i.e. mobile optimization).

You also might want to consider a more targeted approach. Since the update affects how individual pages on your site get indexed, you might want to assess how specific pages on your site are doing.  You can test the mobile-friendliness of those pages by entering the URL into Google’s tool. Or, if Google’s webmaster tools are enabled for your site, you can view information on the “Mobile Usability Report”.

Ultimately, you should care because for an increasing number of people, a mobile device or tablet will be their preferred means (or even their only means) of viewing your website. This is especially true if you rely on email campaigns or social media to drive visitors to your site or if you offer programs and/or host events that people need to find out about via those channels. Even if mobile search rankings aren’t that important to your work, there may be other very good reasons to upgrade your website to make it easy to use on mobile devices.

(Contributors: Jessica Peskay & Chris Snyder)

Further Resources

If you want to read more about this topic, there are some terrific mobile website resources at the Idealware website.

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