Google is about to update their algorithm again, and this time it could have a big impact on your business. I mean, really really big.
For context, when Google initially rolled out the Penguin algorithm update, it affected approximately 4% of global searches on desktop and mobile. When they rolled out Panda, it affected nearly 12% of English searches. This time around, Google's Webmaster Trends Analyst Zineb Ait Bahajji says that this algorithm update will be bigger than Penguin or Panda.
What's the new algorithm update about? It will use mobile-friendliness as a ranking signal -- if your website isn't mobile-friendly, you could get dinged in the SERPs when someone is searching Google using a mobile device.
So if you want to make sure that you're prepared for this change, keep on reading. We'll dive into more details on what the update will entail and give you some tools to help diagnose your site's mobile-readiness.
What Is the Mobile Algorithm Update?
Think back to the last time you landed on a site that wasn't optimized for mobile. Chances are, you needed to zoom and then swipe side-to-size to even read what was on the page. And when you went to go click on something, your fingers could barely select the tiny links. I'm going to bet good money that you just bounced from that page -- with all the information on the internet, you didn't need to waste your time on a website with a really poor user experience.
Google's realized how frustrating this whole experience is and decided to change their algorithm accordingly. Soon, when someone's searching on a mobile device, Google will serve up sites that are easy to read, make navigations and links easy to tap, have images appropriately sized for the device, and more generally, make information easy to find. (Want to see some mobile sites already doing this right? Here are 15 examples of great mobile websites.)
Back to the algorithm update. At the moment, Google denotes which sites are mobile-friendly in their mobile search results (below is an example of what that looks like). But in a few weeks, they'll be actually rewarding and penalizing websites for their mobile experience. This will be rolled out during the week of April 21st, so you've got some time to figure out if your website is mobile friendly and get your ducks in a row.
Is Your Website Mobile-Friendly? 3 Tools You Can Use to Find Out
But if you're not sure if your website is ready, there are a number of free tools you can use to figure it out. I would recommend running your site through multiple tools as they may highlight different issues that you may need to be address. So let's dive into some of our favorite tools below.
Enter your website's URL into Google's Mobile-Friendly Test and it will let you know if you've got a mobile-friendly page on your hands. If the website you entered passes Google's test, you will see a green banner indicating the website is mobile-friendly. If the website does not pass, Google will let you know the page is not mobile-friendly and give some reasons why.
Many of the common reasons why a website isn't mobile-friendly is because:
The content is wider than the screen: This requires users to scroll side-to-side to read the page.
The text too small: This means the user must zoom to read text on the page.
The links too close together: On a smartphone, links should be easy to tap with your fingers -- this means that the links should be big enough and in natural location to tap. Most smartphone users hold their phone in their right hand and tap links with their thumb.
The mobile viewport isn't set: This is a little more on the technical side of things, but the mobile viewport controls the width of the page for the device. If your website displays a desktop landscape when smartphone visitors land on your page, then the viewport is not set for mobile on that page. This is an extra special case where responsive design comes in handy -- responsive design will automatically adjust the viewport based on the device.
The World Wide-Web Consortium (W3C) has their own mobile-friendly test, mobileOK Checker, that provides more technical insight and recommendations for your website. In addition, they provide a severity rating for each of their findings so you can address any mobile problems with your website by their importance. This is a comprehensive and actionable tool to use if you're familiar with some of the technical components of your website.
If you want to quickly analyze your mobile-readiness and the rest of your marketing efforts, check out Marketing Grader -- it assess your blog, SEO, social media accounts, and mobile optimization.
To start your analysis, simply enter your website URL and email. Then, Marketing Grader will analyze your site and give you a score out of 100 -- the closer you are to 100, the better your site is. In the mobile component of the report, Marketing Grader will show you a preview of your page on mobile and some suggestions on how to improve that page.
Have you used any of these tools to get ready for the mobile algorithm update? What other tools would you recommend people use? Let us know in the comments.
Originally published Mar 31, 2015 8:00:00 AM, updated July 28 2017