Can you count how many times Google has changed the search engine algorithm in the last years? Hard to tell: usually they are small updates that only affect the daily routine of SEO experts and webmasters. Once in a while, however, we face a major change with a huge impact on rankings and results pages.
That’s what will happen with the Google mobile friendly algorithm, listed to be released on April 21th, destined to change the way you plan your digital marketing strategy.
Digital marketers already know how the acronym SERP (search engine results page) can influence an entire branding effort: in the Internet era, your online presence is critical to manage the overall strategy of your company. Even more so now that inbound marketing is rapidly becoming the best choice to attract and convert empowered customers.
Fact is: if your brand doesn’t show up in the first pages when customers search for the keywords connected to your business, it’s like you don’t even exist for them. In hyper-competitive environments, digital transformation can only be achieved through constant optimization, the key to stay top of mind and be sure they find you when customers are looking for solutions or - even better - are ready to convert.
Any evolution of the algorithm is awaited with anxiety, because it is probably going to mark a significant change in how users experience the customer journey you have so hardly built. After all, we’re talking about a company that dominates the search market with a huge 75% total share. The so-called Google mobile friendly algorithm is expected to have a higher impact than Panda, Penguin and Hummingbird.
The new update will go into effect from April 21th, affecting mobile searches in all languages worldwide. And if you think that mobile searches are less important than the desktop ones, the following statistics will force you to think again:
More than 50% of customers use their smartphones to search for product info and decide what to buy and where to buy.
60% of all traffic for Google search engine comes now from mobile devices.
As of last year, mobile platforms accounted for 60% of total time spent on digital media.
78% of customers searching on mobile for a local business ultimately end up making a purchase.
The smartphone screen is already the first reference for customers to share opinions on social media and look for all information needed to take the purchase decision. The business consequence is that customers expect that you are:
- Reachable everytime, everywhere and across all devices.
- Able to offer optimized experiences on any the device.
A couple of weeks ago Google warned that the update will have a "significant impact in our search results". The new algorithm will expand the use of ‘mobile-friendliness’ as a ranking signal, so that users might find it easier to “get relevant, high quality search results that are optimized for their devices”.
It’s going to be a total shake-up for mobile. Websites that are not designed with mobile in mind will likely fall down, while websites that are responsively designed will rise in the search results. What should you do to avoid the pitfalls and take advantage of the new algorithm? Stay mobile-friendly, that’s the basic rule. Let’s see how you can put it into practice.
Use responsive design - it’s no mystery that Google loves and officially recommends responsive design for websites. This is the first factor that will be analyzed by Google’s specific tool, and one of the 4 rules of mobile engagement.
Use the same URL - do not implement a different URL (domain, subdomain or subdirectory) for the mobile site. Be sure that the page is always available from the same URL to all devices.
Avoid redirect error - you don’t have a mobile friendly page or maybe you are working on fixing it after testing the site with Google’s tool? In the meantime, never use 404 Mobile Error to redirect the desktop version of the page.
Be fast to load - one of the key factors in mobile website analysis is, of course, the page load speed. Test (using PageSpeed Insights) and optimize your speed to offer the best mobile customer experience possible.
Optimize content - even though this update will mostly affect technical elements, do not forget that content is still considered the king. Keep it optimized in both form and substance: avoid unplayable media on mobile devices, avoid Flash video, avoid duplicate content and redirects from desktop pages.
You can easily see why some marketers are rubbing their hands with glee while others are running for the nearest oxygen tank. In an ecosystem shaped by mobile devices, digital marketing and customer experience are strictly linked and a mobile-first (slowly evolving into mobile-only) approach is simply mandatory to engage with clients surrounded by connected technology. Brace yourself: Google is coming.
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