Google is often circumspect when they make changes to their search algorithm, as most changes are made to keep ahead of SEO cheats. This is because Google’s brand promise to consumers is to deliver the best content in the world, and their new change to the Mobile Search policy is consistent with that promise.
Simply put, when you are on your phone, tablet or “phablet,” to qualify as “best content,” you want websites that are easy to read and navigate. And if there are features like shopping or requesting a PDF download to be emailed to you, you want those to be easy to use as part of your smaller mobile touchscreen experience. To find and deliver the best content for mobile users, Google’s search engine is now evaluating web pages for usability before they determine page rank in Mobile Search.
But do you really, really need to update your website right now? Moving to a mobile-responsive website can be relatively expensive. You may be asking “What do I truly stand to lose?” Rather than succumb to hype-driven fear, you may want to check your analytics.
For many of our clients, their email newsletters are driving much more traffic to their mobile website than mobile search. If you are using email as part of your brand communication platform, you owe it to your constituents (customers, prospects, referral sources and innocent bystanders) to deliver a mobile-friendly experience. Otherwise, they’re likely to think twice before they click on future email links! What a sad reason to lose a sale.
For those who need further reasons, here’s how to tell how urgent a Mobile Search update is for you:
1) Compare your mobile and desktop web search positions (and recent changes in position) using Google Webmaster Tools. While you are at it, you can also compare the number of impressions between the two device form factors. Mobile use of the Internet is rapidly increasing, especially when people are looking to call or visit your place of business.
2) Check the percentage of visitors, segmented by device type, using Google Analytics. You can also see the visit sources segmented by device type. Many of our clients are receiving far more mobile visits as a result of their email campaigns than as a result of mobile search. Either way, you’ll see how much you have at stake.
3) Get Google’s feedback on your website’s mobility rating from Google Webmaster Tools. Google is sharing their data, so take advantage and improve not only the presentation, but usability as well.
If you have a history of people searching for your website on their mobile devices, especially if you rely on email marketing, then Google’s new change to mobile search should be the push you need to upgrade to a responsive design on your website.
And if you find that your website doesn’t meet the ROI criteria because you don’t have enough mobile traffic to justify an update, you may need to rethink your brand communications and get in game, reaching out to people “on the go” through email, social media and, yes, search.