Here Comes Google's Mobilegeddeon - Are you Ready?

Is Your Website Responsive?  What you Need to Know.

So, tomorrow’s the big day!  No not election day, something much more exciting and quite frankly likely to be more life changing…Google’s mobile friendly update is upon us.

For the first time ever, Google actually forewarned the online community of a planned update.  This warning came softly in December 2014 and then harder in mid-January in the form of warning messages to website owners, via Google Webmaster Tools and is said to be much bigger than any Panda, Penguin or Hummingbird update unleashed in the past.

Instantly, I dutifully advised clients, suppliers, partners, friends and family, yup basically everyone I knew with a website to use the fantastic Mobile Friendly Test tool Google had provided within their Developers’ guides.  It then became very apparent to me, the sheer scale of this update and the impact it will have on so many businesses…and so the questions started to flow…and my research and testing began.

During my research and analysis leading up to this update, I think one of the most helpful and meaningful set of questions and answers I found is from a post from Search Engine Land.  As I think they are such great questions, I have decided to include them in this post in the vain attempt ensure as many website owners read this as possible and gain a fuller understanding of what is about to happen.  Here are just a few of the questions:

Q: When is Google releasing the mobile-friendly algorithm?

A: The algorithm is launching tomorrow, April 21st. I checked in with Google this morning and they confirmed they are still on schedule with tomorrow.

Q: What is this algorithmic update, who will it impact?

A: This update will impact only mobile searchers and it will give a ranking boost to mobile-friendly pages in Google’s mobile search results only.

Q: Will it impact desktop searchers? Will my desktop rankings drop?

A: No, it will only impact mobile searchers and will have no impact on your desktop rankings.

Q: Will it impact tablet searchers?

A: No, this only impacts searches done on mobile smartphone devices, not tablets.

Q: How do I know if my site is mobile friendly?

A: There are a few ways but the only way to know if your site is already indexed by Google as mobile friendly is to see if your site has the mobile friendly label in the mobile search results. Using the mobile friendly testing tool will show if you pass the test, but Google may still need some time to update their index to pick up on the fact that your web pages are mobile friendly. You can also the mobile usability reports within Google Webmaster Tools, but those can be fairly delayed.

Q: Is the mobile friendly algorithm site-wide or on a web page by web page basis?

A: The mobile friendly algorithm is on a page by page basis. So even if only some of your web pages are not mobile friendly, some come benefit from this algorithm.

Q: Is this a real-time or delayed algorithm?

A: Unlike Panda or Penguin, the mobile friendly algorithm is run in real time. Sometimes the mobile friendly label can be delayed in showing up in the search results, but Google will pick up on those changes in real time.

Q: If I make my site mobile friendly today, how long will it take Google to pick up on those changes?

A: As we said above, the algorithm is real time. We also explained above that Google has to crawl your web pages to determine if they are mobile friendly. Early tests show that it can take anywhere from a few hours to over 72-hours if you do everything right for Google to show your web pages as mobile friendly. I would not be surprised if large sites can take up to a month to be displayed as fully mobile friendly. So make sure your most important pages are indexed as mobile friendly sooner than later.

Q: Can you be partially mobile friendly according to Google?

A: No, a web page is only mobile friendly or not mobile friendly, you cannot be more or less mobile friendly than another web page. It is a yes or no on being mobile friendly or not.

Q: Will my non mobile friendly web site drop in the rankings tomorrow, April 21st?

A: Not necessarily. Google said it can take a few weeks for the algorithm to roll out. So you might not notice the change for a few days to a few weeks.

Q: After it does roll out, how badly will my non mobile site be impacted?

A: Truth is, it is unknown right now. We were told it will be more significant than both the Panda and Penguin algorithms, which may mean that more than 11% of the search results will change from this.

Thanks Search Engine Land for compiling such an informative list of questions on the tip of many tongues, so clearly answered too:

Little Tip…

So it appears that a great starting point for many website owners should be to review the average percentage of traffic they receive from mobile smartphones in particular (using analytics), as these arethe search results said to be effected by this update.  With this information is should be clear how much impact this update is going to have on your website if it is still not a mobile friendly website in Google’s eyes. 

Although I haven’t seen the figures, at a guess many pure business to business websites within traditional industries such as construction and manufacturing will still have a higher percentage of desktop traffic compared to mobile devices and should therefore be relatively unharmed for now.  It will be the e-commerce and consumer focused website that are going to take the biggest hit on this occasion i.e. as consumers are more likely to be using a mobile to search than a business targeted by and B2B website.

Let’s watch this space and see how tomorrow goes.  Fingers, toes and anything else you can think of crossed that your website ticks all the necessary boxes in terms of responsive design and you never know, it might even be boosted up the search results for being so great!  Good luck and look out for my next post - post Google Mobile Geddeon.

References and further reading:

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