The search engine optimization world is being shaken up once again. Google recently announced that they will be rolling out another ranking algorithm change effective April 21st. The focus of this change is to make mobile-friendly websites appear higher in search listings for those using smartphone or tablet devices to access the web.
This news is somewhat concerning to webmasters and internet marketing teams who have not placed an emphasis on mobile viewing in the past. However, knowledge is power and paying close attention to how such a change can affect your website is key to keeping your current ranking. While these factors are just the tip of the iceberg in terms of what Google ultimately uses to rank mobile-friendly websites, they do give a bit of insight into what the search engine giant is actually looking for.
Here are a few things to know about this change and what to do if you believe your website is affected.
Desktop Search Will Not Be Changed
When considering the algorithm change’s effects on your page, it is important to first remember that desktop search will not be changed. This means that anyone using a traditional computer and browser will still see search engine results exactly as they did before the switch.
Take Bob and Sue as an example. Bob sits down at his laptop and searches for keywords pertinent to your website. If you have a mobile site that is less than user-friendly, this will not change the search engine results that Bob sees. You will still rank in the exact same place as you did before April 21st, as he is using a traditional web browser. However, Sue uses her iPhone to do the exact same Google search. If your website is not optimized for mobile devices, it may not even appear in the search results that she sees. Can you see the difference between the two scenarios?
In essence, Google is now offering users two different ranking pages—one for mobile and one for traditional browsers.
Responsive is More Than Just a Buzz Word
Web and theme developers have really thrown around the term “responsive” over the last few years. If you’ve had any sort of site change or redesign, you’ve probably even been offered the chance to have a responsive website.
What responsive means is that your page will still look great no matter what size screen it is viewed on. Images shrink, menu bars are accessible a different way, and more to make the page as optimized to the viewer’s device as possible. The smaller the screen gets—such as with an older iPhone or Android device—the more truncated the layout of the page becomes. It takes an added bit of coding and planning on the part of a web developer to make this happen effectively.
One aspect to the new Google ranking algorithm is how responsive a website’s mobile page is. If the site is very hard to view on a smartphone or tablet device, it will either not show up in the rankings or be listed below other websites that have taken the time to make the switch to responsive.
Basically, if you haven’t switched to a responsive website design or tablet, now might be the time.
Consider Eliminating Certain Types of Media
For years, Flash animations and video have been a staple of many different types of websites. However, this mobile-friendly algorithm change may bring utilizing this type of media to an end. Extensive animations in formats not viewable on a mobile device—including those that require special media players and some licensed files—are considered one factor that makes a website less mobile-friendly in the eyes of Google.
Experienced webmasters will be able to set their pages up so that the animations will show up on a desktop browser, but not on a mobile view of the page. It is possible to do, but might require talking to your web development team. There are also multiple types of web coding that now allow for animations and media to be played on both desktop browsers and mobile devices. (HTML5 is a great example.)
Nevertheless, making sure this is handled previously to the new algorithm taking effect is a great way to ensure your rankings stay intact for mobile users.
Page Load Times Are a Critical Factor
Who likes to wait forever for a page to load? Certainly not most smartphone and tablet users who expect to see their favorite websites show up on their screens instantly.
How do you know if your page has an excessively long load time? There are several tools online that can help you determine if a site is slow to load. You can also do this the old-fashioned way—grab your favorite smartphone or tablet device and try to pull up the page yourself. If you are frustrated with it, chances are that most of your customers will be, too.
What This All Means to You and Your Austin SEO Strategy
In conclusion, Google’s mobile-friendly algorithm change is a big deal. A great majority of most website visitors in 2015 are using a smartphone or tablet device to view your website. Implementing a search engine optimization campaign almost becomes pointless if only a fraction site visitors—those who aren’t using a mobile device—can see your page in the rankings. If you’ve been on the fence about switching to a mobile-friendly and/or responsive version of your website, now is the time to act.
For more information about Austin SEO services, please contact the dedicated team at SEO Austin today.
Landra J. is a search optimization expert who has helped hundreds of clients increase paid and organic search results with several top engines.