As I write this column, Google’s recently announced mobile algorithm update, dubbed by the webosphere as “Mobilegeddon,” is only days away. Everywhere I turn, I see webmasters, consultants, and journalists getting worked up over the implications of what is said to be Google’s most far-reaching change in how it determines the value of a site since Hummingbird flew into our lives.
If you are one of the many businesses worried about the impact of Mobilegeddon come April 21, I have some advice for you that I haven’t been hearing elsewhere: relax. Google is simply nudging the market in a direction we’ve all been heading for quite some time.
As has been widely reported, on February 26, Google disclosed that on April 21, the search giant would expand its use of mobile-friendliness as a ranking signal, thus resulting in more mobile-friendly websites in search results. The announcement has triggered the kind of mad scramble reminiscent of the run-up to the Y2K remediation in the 1990s, as brands ask, “Is my content properly optimized mobile search? If not, how badly will I suffer? Will Google exile me to mobile Siberia if I don’t measure up?”
The questions are understandable. After all, when Google dropped the Panda and Penguin updates in 2011 and 2012, websites that failed to survive Google’s filter were placed into a penalty box until the search engine decided — on its own timetable — when it wanted to re-run the filter across the entire Web.
But the mobile algorithm change will be different. Even if your content lacks mobile friendliness and you fail to show up in search results, all is not lost. You can still very quickly make changes and see improvements; and Google will not put you in a penalty box if you fail to optimize your site by April 21.
Moreover, the algorithm change is not exactly coming out of the blue. Google has been recommending a good mobile experience for users for years. Accordingly, the brands I work with have been steadily optimizing their content for mobile all along, anyway — not because Google told them to, but because their customers did. The volume of searches conducted on mobile devices has rapidly caught up with desktop searches and has been predicted to overtake desktop searches in 2015.
How do you know if you’ve been changing along with Google? Well, in its February announcement, Google left us with a clue by sharing its own mobile-friendly test. Simply enter your URL, and Google will tell you flat-out whether your site is mobile friendly and how the Googlebot sees your page.
If your website fails the test, Google will tell you why so that you know what to fix. Factors causing you to fail the test include text that is too small to read, a mobile viewport that is not set, content that is wider than the screen, and links that are too close together.
If you are in the minority of brands that have been doing absolutely nothing to make your website mobile friendly over the past few years, you have a few time-honored options:
Whatever you do, don’t panic. If you are close to getting a mobile site launched and worried it won’t be ready by April 21st, don’t bust your budget to make a fix. Adopt change at a pace that is right for your organization, and once you have a mobile-friendly site, the benefits of implementing this should happen quickly.
But here’s the bigger issue: if you’ve not been sensing and responding to the marketplace and making your content accessible to a mobile world all along, you should stop worrying about Google. Instead, start challenging yourself to keep pace with the changing world around you. Google is simply offering you a little encouragement.