Nathan Barling is Global VP of Product & Business Strategy at iProspect
Having a search engine at our fingertips has revolutionised the way we live our lives. It’s now possible to find new shops and restaurants while on the go, find and buy products, book holidays, theatre tickets, spa days – all while waiting for a train or a friend. And it’s getting hugely popular.
In 2014 our data revealed that 30 percent of all searches came from a mobile device, while in the year to date this has increased to over 60 percent. In response to this Google is changing its search algorithm to reward sites that are mobile optimised.
Great news for consumers, but what does it mean for businesses?
This is one of the biggest changes to the Google algorithm in years, so it’s one to take seriously. From yesterday, a site’s “mobile friendliness” will now play a key role in the way it is ranked, and sites that are not mobile optimised will appear lower down on Google’s search pages.
With mobile search growing at 10x the rate of desktop, businesses that don’t have mobile ready site stand to lose up to 1/3rd of their traffic. More than two thirds of Fortune 100 companies are not considered mobile friendly, according to research firm SumAll, so this is set to have a big impact.
How will Google test for “mobile friendliness”?
The algorithm will scan each page on the site, checking for load times, responsive design elements, and mobile best practice. For now searches on tablets won’t be affected, but this is likely to be in the pipeline – so it’s worth getting ahead of this change.
The main things to bear in mind are using text sizes that are readable without zooming, content that fits the screen so scrolling and zooming aren’t necessary, and spacing links so tapping the right one isn’t tough for users. Flash is going to be a big problem too, it’s not commonly supported on mobile devices and Google will be holding it against sites that use on it.
Get all of the above in line and check it against Google’s mobile friendly test to see if you’re ready to go.
If you’re not ready, what can you do?
While Google will be checking every page, it’s worth noting that the algorithm is applied page-by-page and not to the whole site. What this means is that as different pages become mobile friendly they can start to benefit from the SEO boost offered by this update. My advice would be to focus on your homepage and commonly used areas of the site if you’re not in the position for an overhaul.
Google will also be taking into account the usability of a site – so how many clicks it takes to perform a particular task – meaning that avoiding convoluted processes for making purchases or bookings should help boost mobile SEO.
In the long term, however, responsive web design and having a site that adapts easily to a mobile or tablet environment will be key.
What are the positives?
If you’re a business that works hard to optimise the mobile experience for customers you’ll benefit from improved mobile SEO over competitors that are lagging behind. On the other hand, if you are lagging behind on mobile but have a great desktop site, your ranking on the latter will remain unaffected.
However, it’s to the benefit of all businesses to be quick to get up to speed with mobile and make sure their sites deliver a positive consumer experience. All consumers have a propensity to abandon your brand if they are struggling to look at your products, make purchases or contact you when on your site.
If we consider the rate at which mobile search is exploding – especially in emerging markets that are mobile first – the mobile ecommerce opportunity being offered to businesses is huge. Google’s algorithm will make it more competitive so it’s worth making the changes before your profits see the hit.
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