Batten Down the Hatches: Google’s Mobilegeddon is Coming

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Google has announced that mobile optimisation will become a more important factor in its search engine algorithm – the big, secret set of maths equations that determines which sites match with which particular search terms.

The good news is that for searches performed on mobile devices, websites with mobile-friendly sites might be seeing a boost in their search rankings (and by extension a rise in their traffic). The bad news is, websites which aren’t up to the standards Google expects for mobile users will likely be ranked lower in mobile searches (and may even disappear from them entirely).

The Times They are a Changin’

The announcement is unusual for Google, who tend to launch algorithm updates in secret (to keep those who try to exploit the search giant’s algorithms always one step behind). This time, they’re not out to defeat SEO cheaters, but to keep website owners on the same page as their ever-more-mobile customers and fans.

The number of internet users who surf from their smartphones and tablets has increased dramatically over the past few years and is only expected to rise in the coming years. Nowadays, less than 40% of web traffic actually comes from good old-fashioned desktop computers.

Therefore, those who fail to provide a good web experience on mobile browsers are at risk of becoming outdated and irrelevant to over half their audience.

Google have been making gradual changes to address this shift, including adding a ‘mobile-friendly’ tag to search results which meet their optimisation standards – but now it seems they’re drawing out the big guns.

No More Mobile Visitors for You?

What will happen if you don’t upgrade to a mobile-friendly website?

Nobody knows for certain how serious of an effect the algorithm update will have. Google says the update will have ‘a significant impact’ on their search results, and they’re no stranger to radically adjusting their rankings to deliver the best results for their users, so it seems logical that poorly mobile-optimised sites will be seeing a big drop in their traffic very soon.

It’s worth noting that if you’re in an industry which doesn’t receive a lot of traffic from tablet and smartphones, the number of users coming to your site from search results probably won’t change too much. Your site could still disappear from mobile results, but remain in desktop results, so your regular customers should still be able to find you. However, keep in mind this is simply speculation – we’ll just have to wait and see what happens after 21st April

Preppin’ for the Mobile ‘Pocalypse

So, is your site mobile ready? Perhaps you’re not sure whether it is or isn’t – in which case, it probably isn’t. If you are unsure, you can use Google’s handy analysis tool to get a straightforward answer on just how mobile-friendly your site currently is.

If you haven’t got a mobile site yet, now is definitely the time to invest in one. You have two options, essentially – you can create a mobile site which is more or less independent from your desktop site, or you can upgrade your current desktop site into a responsive or adaptive website. A responsive website is Google’s preferred choice.

Responsive websites work by giving each element on your website a screen-percentage size, so they automatically adjust to the best size and layout for reading and navigation, no matter what device your users are accessing your site on.

Meanwhile, adaptive sites store a set of unique layouts which are optimised for different types of devices. There’s usually one for desktop users, one for smartphone users and one for tablet users. When a user accesses your adaptive site, the site will automatically detect the screen size of their device and pick out the adaptive layout that suits their screen the best.

A mobile-optimised site is a long-term investment, not a quick fix to dodge Google’s latest changes. Make sure you go with a reputable web developer who can deliver the right mobile solution for you.

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