Google has long been known to surprise the SEO and general Webmaster world, and in most cases this comes in the form of an announcement about changes they make to their algorithm on the same day they are being deployed; in some cases this even happened several days later. Two of the most notable and infamous changes Google has introduced in the past few years are known as Penguin and Panda.
However, on April 21, 2015 the Google mobile friendly update was deployed after having been announced months in advance. For a change, this gave webmasters and developers plenty of time for preparation and implementation of new responsive technologies.
Before we go into the details of why this Google update is important to take serious, it should probably first be highlighted how web access has changed in recent years. To put mobile Internet data into perspective. Cisco have calculated that in 2014 alone, mobile data was 30 times as large as total Internet traffic in the year 2000.
When you then look at how prevalent Smartphones and tablet computers have become, it is no surprise that mobile data is fast overtaking desktop data. So when Google announced that they would be modifying their algorithm to take mobile usability into account for search results, you had better pay attention.
As a Webmaster, the decision to make the necessary changes was very much dependent on each individual site’s user traffic. A quick look at the site analytics will reveal what percentage of visitors comes from phones and tablets. If this is a high enough amount making mobile friendly changes would be a very clear decision.
Generally speaking it is the case that businesses targeting younger audiences will find far more of their website visitors coming from mobile devices. For example, if you run a website targeting elderly people for specific products or services, you are far more likely to see the majority of your visitors coming from desktop devices.
On the other hand, a career advice website targeting underwater welding for high school graduates is a perfect candidate for analysis of the impact of the Google update. My findings on this site that I manage have been that there certainly is an impact on mobile searches.
Since the update was released, I have been monitoring web traffic analytics and SERP rankings for mobile and desktop devices. The results so far show that mobile traffic and search rankings have all increased. One of the main reasons that CareerWelder.com has seen significant increases in mobile search results has mainly to do with the fact that the majority of competitor sites were not, and still are not, optimized for mobile devices.
And this does make perfect sense since it is what Google said it would be doing, i.e. boost rankings for mobile friendly sites, while reducing them for sites that were not mobile friendly.
However, the big question still is whether a site could loose SERP rankings and organic traffic for desktop searches if it does not have a mobile friendly design. There is no clear cut evidence either way in my opinion, but with the latest in WordPress theme technology there really is no excuse to not make your website responsive and thereby take on higher risks. Just because there may not be an impact now, doesn’t mean that this will not change in a future update.
In addition to the advance warning, Google also provided a pretty decent tool, which is available directly from Webmaster Tools under the “Mobile Usability” section. If a site has issues, then this is where you would find some details about what the problems are.
If you do not have a responsive site set up then you will probably see a lot of errors with some of them seemingly quite cryptic. But you should not be too worried about these errors as there is a quite simple way to fix this, especially if you use WordPress.
In a recent post on this site we recommend the use of Thrive Themes. The great thing about all their themes is that they are fully responsive and result in zero mobile usability errors in Google Webmaster Tools. Installation and set up is incredibly easy and in no time you will have a fully responsive site that will look great on all types of computer devices.
As a final comment I want to highlight again that even if your site has very few mobile visitors, this does not mean that you should simply ignore this recent Google update. For many websites, an update will be very simple and straightforward and there is no telling whether future updates will have a more negative effect. If the solution is simple then why take that risk?