April 2015 Did you survive Google’s Mobile-pocalypse? [MONTHLY SUMMARY OF SEARCH]

google-485611__180.jpgOne of Google’s largest updates in years happened last month. Did your mobile rankings survive what many were hailing as the end times for mobile traffic? It may not be as bad as expected for your site – but certainly beaware of the risks and rewards to make an informed decision. Here are some questions to ask yourself:

1. Are you indeed mobile friendly? If you see a “Mobile friendly” label next to your site in Google’s mobile search results, you are definitely mobile friendly. If not, Google’s tools may tell you what to fix. First, try Google’s “Mobile Friendly Tool”: https://www.google.com/webmasters/tools/mobile-friendly/

But there are caveats: If resources such as CSS or JS are blocked, the tool could give a false positive. And if you aren’t seeing those labels next to your site in Google’s mobile search results, there must be a reason. So to be sure, run this tool on your site as well: https://developers.google.com/webmasters/mobile-sites/mobile-seo/?hl=en

For people that pass the mobile friendly test – and even those that have the label – this tool will give the next items you should be working on. Because staying ahead of Google’s algorithm is a good investment of time and energy.

2. What percentage of organic traffic is on a “mobile device?” Everyone should know the percentage of their traffic on mobile. Many assume that tablets are included in the “mobile device” designation, but that isn’t true. Google count tablets more like desktop users, and expects the desktop version of your design towork for many of them. To find the your site’s mobile traffic percentage, click on Audience > Mobile > Overview in the left sidebar of Google Analytics. While you are in there, compare the percentage to last year: Your mobile traffic has likely grown greatly!

3. How soon can you fix the problem? If you missed the deadline, no worries: The update is ongoing. You can fix anytime, and google will notice shortly after. Unlike Penguin, no waiting a year on this update. Use Google Webmaster Tools to request a recrawl of fixed pages quickly.

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8 Things We Know About Google’s Upcoming Mobile Update [Monthly Summary of Search]

Google is implementing a mobile update come April 21. They have been releasing small details, and here is what we know so far:

1. The penalty is on a page-by-page basis:  Instead of judging an entire site, Google will assess the mobile friendliness of each page. This is very unlike Google Panda’s penalties: Usually a small section of a site can potentially impact the entire site by spewing duplicate and/or thin content. If your site is too difficult to change in time, worry first about your site’s most important organic landing pages: Make sure they are mobile friendly, and disregard other areas of the site.

2. Google is currently showing labels for mobile-friendly sites in their mobile search results:
Here is what the labels look like in mobile searches:

mobile-friendly

This is actually the most important of all tests: If your pages are showing the label, you’ve passed the mobile friendly test.

3. Come April 21, sites will start to see the ranking changes: Mobile friendly pages will see increased rankings, while unfriendly pages will see a decrease in rankings.

4. Bigger than panda or penguin: Google has relayed that this update is going to be larger than Panda or Penguin. The rankings of many pages are likely to be effected.

5. The update starts on April 21, and rolls out over a week: Do not breathe a sigh of relief on April 21 and stop checking. Instead check mobile friendliness labels, rankings and traffic levels daily for the week.

6. There are not degrees of mobile friendliness: Binary: There are not degrees of mobile friendliness. Even one issue is detected, and the URL will be treated as NOT mobile friendly.Google's mobile update

7. The update is ongoing: No need to wait a year after you’ve implemented the fix. Instead, changes will be sensed on the next crawl of your page. Of course, you’ll want to use Google’s Webmaster Tools features to get pages reindexed quickly!

8. Some tests are inconclusive: When you spot the “Mobile Friendly” label on your page in Google’s mobile search results, you know your page is in the clear. But tool errors have been noted in Google’s testing tools:

  • If pages are flagged in Webmaster Tools as Mobile Unfriendly, it can take a while for the errors displayed to clear once fixes are implemented.
  • Some tests can fail or report a false positive when resources such as CSS or JS are blocked.

Google has never given notice of an impending deadline like this. It’s a bold experiment to get the web moving in what is clearly the right direction. But can sites be changed in time? It’s a tough deadline to meet for most companies.

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Google, The Internet Police Force, Aims At Mobile [Monthly Summary of Search]

Google is quickly becoming the self-appointed internet police force. To be fair, it sure is nice to have Google warn us when a website may be compromised and spreading malware. Google recently gave some false positives, but otherwise does a good job of keeping the internet a safe and happy place. Now Google is going a step further and is targeting mobile experience. With dramatic increases in mobile search over the last several years (and decreasing desktop search), Google is on a mission to identify mobile-friendly design and usability. Google is again changing the face of the web by mandating these features for sites that wish to rank highly in search results.

Text vs Images
In the early days of the web, browsers did not support multiple typefaces / fonts. Designers used jpg and gif images to create buttons for their menus and navigation, but search engines couldn’t read the words – missing an important signal about the URLs being linked to. A compromise had to be made, and for designers it felt less than ideal. The advent of web fonts have breathed life back into web design, but it was a difficult transition for many.

Site Speed
Slow website loading times are repulsive to Google in a couple of different ways: Not only are Googlebot’s crawlers tied up, but user experience suffers as well. Google can see bounce rates increase and knows they didn’t deliver the “right result” in those ten blue links.

Ads Above the Fold
Google’s own advertising system helped create a world of sites filled with ads. Users developed ad blindness and ad blockers, but usability still suffered. Having ads at the top of the page became a signal of poor quality to Google, and they rolled out an algorithm update specifically targeting these designs. Moving the ads meant a reduction in revenue for many sites, but changes were made to preserve the sweet flow of Google traffic.

Mobile
Google’s latest improvement for the web is happening in mobile.

Last fall, they started testing labeling which results were mobile friendly, showing tags next to sites on mobile devices. Google has announced a big change is coming in April for their mobile search results: sites will be severely penalized for a lack of mobile usability. Labels will be given to mobile friendly sites, too. It’s likely that many sites will see a drop in ranking when this goes into effect. Google and Bing both understand mobile is their most important battleground for marketshare, and Google assures us the change means “users will find it easier to get relevant, high quality search results that are optimized for their devices.” For businesses, it will be vital that all pages pass Google’s Mobile friendly test, check Mobile Error Reports in Webmaster Tools and watch for common mistakes on mobile.

Not sure of next steps for your site? Time to start testing – or maybe a redesign from that “good place”. Need a good interactive agency or website design firm? We’ve worked with agencies and designers. And we partner with the best! Talk to us about your needs, and we’ll introduce you to the right match.

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