Is your website ready for Google's mobile search changes?

Google has recently announced a major update to the algorithm that determines search results on mobile devices. This change is taking place on 21st April, and means that mobile-friendly sites will be prioritised for people using Google Search on their phones.

Google says: “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."

It’s rare for Google to give this much notice about algorithm updates so it’s a great opportunity to get one step ahead of your competition.

What you need to know

  • Mobile friendliness is determined at the page level rather than site wide. This means that you’ll have to ensure any page that your customers could land on directly from search results is mobile optimised. Google has a tool that you can use to check how mobile friendly your website is – but you’ll need to check each page one by one.
  • Google has plans for a completely separate mobile search index – so making sure your website is adapted now is good insurance against even bigger future changes that could see mobile-unfriendly websites drop off mobile search results completely
  • Tablets will not be affected by this update.

Next steps?

If you have realised that your site is not mobile friendly, you have two options in front of you: create a mobile version of your website or change your website to a responsive design.

The key is to optimise usability for your website visitors. This includes making sure that information can be found in just one or two clicks, that the website has big, finger-friendly buttons, and that it fits the small screen. This can be achieved with either approach, and there are advantages and disadvantages to both.

Responsive website pros

  • It’s what Google recommends
  • Responsive design means your content is optimised for all screen sizes and not just mobiles. This includes phones, phablets, tablets, laptops and desktops
  • It keeps your desktop and mobile content on a single URL, which is easier for your users to interact with, share, and link to – great for search engine optimisation
  • Changes only need to be made once for all screen sizes

Responsive website cons

  • It’s a more complicated build process, so the upfront development costs are higher

Mobile website pros

  • Quicker and therefore cheaper to design and build
  • Could offer a better user experience on a mobile than a responsive site, since the design is specifically for a smaller screen resolution

Mobile website cons

  • Higher updating /maintenance costs as both the desktop version and the mobile version need to be looked after
  • Doesn’t cater for mid-range screen sizes such as tablets and phablets

Which to choose?

In our opinion, responsive design is the better option - but it does depend on your budget. Building a separate mobile-friendly site is a good stop gap if time and money are in short supply, or if you are planning an overhaul of your website and just need to make it mobile-friendly in the meantime.

We’ve started on the ‘thinking mobile’ journey with a number of our clients. Get in touch if you would like to talk about getting your own website ready for the upcoming mobile search changes.