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Mobilegeddon: Frequently Asked Questions

By John McTigueApr 20, 2015

are-you-ready-for-mobilegeddon

The good news, if you're reading this post on April 20, 2015, you still have time to get ready for "Mobilegeddon", Google's algorithm update that will reward mobile-friendly websites and penalize everyone else. The bad news, you only have one day to get it done!

Hopefully, I'm not the one breaking this news to you, and you've been working on updating your site since Google made its announcement on February 26. Google's addition of mobile optimization to its ranking signals means you need to get busy, or your website's SEO performance is likely to suffer a hit both on search engine results ranking and organic traffic to your site. Is your site ready?

You can check your mobile-friendliness here. Also check out Google's guidelines for mobile SEO. Finally, here's another good resource on best practices for mobile website design and content. Now for those FAQ's...

Why did Google do this?

Well, frankly because they can. Here it is right from the horse's mouth (the official announcement):

"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."

You could argue that Google just likes to keep webmasters on their toes (or worse). Maybe so, but clearly they are on the side of the searcher, and they want the search experience to be as helpful and easy as possible across all devices, languages and user preferences. Regardless, Google is in control, and we have to make our sites mobile-friendly—and we have to do it now.

What if my site fails the test?

If you haven't already made your website responsive or at least built a mobile-ready alternative website, chances are you will lose Google SERP position for your most important keywords on mobile devices. The loss of rank by just a few positions can cause a severe drop in organic traffic. How much depends on how much of your traffic comes from mobile devices.

According to Bryson Meunier, "...given that the norm is about 30% search access from smartphones (according to seoClarity) and that some sites have much more than half of their traffic coming from smartphones, this mobile-friendly algorithm could be very disruptive to many businesses."

You make the call, but I doubt any of us want to lose as much as 10 percent of our website traffic, when we've already invested so much to increase it over the past few years. For more details on how to assess the potential impact of Mobilegeddon on your site, check out this helpful blog post.

How quickly will I feel the effects?

Well, the algorithm launches tomorrow (April 21), so it won't take long. According to Barry Schwartz from Search Engine Land:

"The algorithm runs in real-time, so technically, you can do it any day, and as soon as Google picks up on the change, the site will start to benefit from the new mobile-friendly algorithm change."

Of course, that also means that the next time your site gets indexed by Google, and it's NOT mobile friendly, you may see a penalty. The algorithm apparently works on a page-by-page basis, so if some of your pages are responsive they should get the benefit, not the penalty. That's good news for webmasters who have started the process of transforming their site to mobile-friendly, and also an impetus to finish up the job soon!

What should I do if my website is not mobile friendly?

Frankly, that train left the station a few years ago when mobile use really started to take off. You're already behind your competitors who worried about this at the beginning of the mobile gold rush. It's never too late, though. Your website team needs to sit down and figure out a practical strategy for addressing what may become a disaster if you continue to postpone a decision to update your site. Here are some things to take action on as soon as possible:

  • Mobile usability - here's a great guide from Google
  • Responsive design - here are some of our best blog posts
  • Page loading speed - a free assessment tool from Google
  • Mobile friendly content - a great post by Neil Patel 

Final Thoughts

Yes, this is another one of those Google algorithm curve balls that keep many of us up at night fixing things. This one's a bit more dramatic than Panda, Penguin and Hummingbird, because it's short notice and pretty sweeping in terms of immediate potential benefits and penalties. But it's not like we weren't warned.

Google's been saying "optimize your website for mobile" for years now. There's also the marketing thing. Why wouldn't you want to reach that 30 percent of your potential buyers with your best content while they use their smart phones? I see this as more of a swift kick in the butt for those of us who have tried to put off mobile friendliness as long as we could.

PS, for those of you with websites hosted on the HubSpot COS, good news! You're site is already mobile friendly. Try it out in the Google mobile readiness tool.

Now let's address how good your content is for the mobile user...

Photo credit: Julian Povey

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The Author

John McTigue

With over 30 years of business and marketing experience, John loves to blog about ideas and trends that challenge inbound marketers and sales and marketing executives. John has a unique way of blending truth with sarcasm and passion with wit. You can connect with John via LinkedIn, Twitter and Google Plus.
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