Google Mobile Update April 2015

5 Minutes
Mark Gregory

April 21st this year will see the latest Google algorithm update rolled out, changing the way internet users view search results.

The main changes this time around are based on mobile optimisation and mobile search result pages. Business websites that are not fully optimised for mobile will find themselves slipping down the rankings, while those that have created a user-friendly platform that takes into account different screen sizes and load times will be rewarded. There will also be changes to how relevant content from indexed apps affects search results. With more and more people worldwide using smartphones, tablets and other mobile devices as their primary access to the internet, Google will be introducing these updates to reward those websites that are most mobile-friendly. How does your website look, will you be penalised or rewarded?

This visual shows what users currently find on their mobile Google searches, we can see the first couple of results specify that the website is mobile friendly, the third (Argos surprisingly) does not state ‘mobile-friendly’ and can probably expect to drop down the rankings if so when the rollout takes place.

The Importance of Optimising for Mobile

While mobile-friendliness does currently register somewhat with Google, the new algorithm update will place a far higher emphasis on this and sites that are not optimised for mobile will be penalised. The changes will have a significant impact and affect searches in all languages worldwide, with the consequence that users of mobile devices will find it quicker and easier to find relevant and high quality results that work for their particular device. Google are offering a number of free tools to help sites check whether or not they are fully optimised, such as a Mobile-Friendly Test and a Mobile Usability Report.

Mobile Friendly SEO

More Relevant App Content

Starting from late February Google are also beginning to use information sourced from indexed apps as a ranking factor for those who have the app installed and are signed-in. The result of this is that Google will surface content far more prominently from indexed apps and this content will have an effect on the overall search ranking of the website.

Is My Site Mobile-Friendly?

Following the Google mobile update April 2015, the quickest way to check if your website is optimised for mobile is to access it yourself through a smartphone or tablet and ask yourself a series of seven questions:

  • Does the landing page take less than three seconds to load?
  • Is the content easy enough to read? (Not too small/cramped or not clear)
  • Is it simple to navigate around the site?
  • Are the key selling points or the key message clear and eye-catching?
  • Is the call to action easy to recognise and to activate?
  • Is the user experience satisfying?
  • If this were not your own website, would you spend any time using it from your mobile device?

If you answered ‘no’ to two or more questions, then the chances are your site probably needs an overhaul to make it more mobile friendly. Research has shown that far more than half of all mobile internet users will abandon a search if the page takes more than three seconds to load. Similarly, around a third of online shoppers will simply give up on a purchase transaction at the shopping cart stage if it is not optimised for mobile. These figures combined with the news of the algorithm update mean that websites not fully mobile optimised are likely to lose a lot of potential business.

How to Optimise for Mobile

The main things to take into account when preparing your website for mobile visitors are the different screen sizes and different load times. Smartphones will generally take longer to load a page than desktop computers, especially over 3g or 4g, so simplifying the design in order to speed up the load time is vital. It is also important to ensure that mobile visitors to the site are able to see the information they require on the page no matter what the size of their screen. Taking the time to look at the design and structure of the website and what factors are affecting page load speed can make the difference between gaining and losing a customer in the blink of an eye.

Page Speed

As discussed above, a page load time of three seconds or less is crucial to keep readers or shoppers on the page. This is so much more important with mobile devices due to potential issues with connectivity or hardware. Optimise images, leverage browser caching, minify code and reduce the number of redirects to speed up the mobile experience.

URLs, Titles and Meta Descriptions

The titles, URLs and meta descriptions are affected by the smaller screen size so be sure to optimise these by being as concise as possible without sacrificing relevant or necessary information. Create short, to-the-point URLs, titles and meta-descriptions wherever possible.

Local Search

It stands to reason that people are more likely to use mobile devices for local search so ensure your mobile site is fully optimised for this if your business has a local element or physical premises. Include the name of your city or town in the metadata and standardise your NAP details (name, address and phone number) to help busy people on the move find you quickly and easily.

What Not to Do

There are several aspects of the typical website that can be frustrating for mobile users. Pop-ups are a great example as they can be difficult to try and close. Flash can also cause problems as the plugins are not always available on certain mobile devices. Other things to consider include touch screen navigation – the key here is to ‘design for the fat finger’. Where buttons are too small, too big or too close together users may find themselves accidentally navigating to the wrong sections of the site, which quickly causes frustration and ultimately site abandonment. Also, in the past web developers have blocked images, CSS or JavaScript as mobile devices could not support these elements, but in the vast majority of cases this is no longer true. Blocking these now results in the Smartphone GoogleBot being unable to properly see and categorise the content properly.

Site Configuration

There are three options for mobile site configuration. Google tends to prefer responsive design, but dynamic serving or parallel URLs will work equally as well if properly set up. The advantages of responsive design include no duplication, no redirects and consolidated authority, while the disadvantages include no mobile-specific content and the possibility of a complete site redesign. Device-specific design such as dynamic serving or parallel URLs allow for mobile-specific content, with dynamic serving also offering consolidated authority and parallel URLs being very easy to implement. However, dynamic serving can be difficult to implement and expensive to maintain, while parallel URLs risk duplication of content, split authority and too many redirects as well as being expensive to maintain.

In the build-up to the new algorithm update Google are offering plenty of help and advice for those businesses that are looking to optimise for mobile, helping to ensure each website has the chance to improve search ratings and maintain visibility online.

Wish Digital are a responsive website specialist agency, please contact us today if you would like to discuss preparing your own website for these important changes – it may be too late to change your website for the April updates but don’t lose any time, the sooner your website adheres the better.