How to prepare your website for Mobilegeddon
You have likely seen a lot of news about the impending Google update on April 21st focused on mobile search and mobile friendly websites. As with most major updates that Google notes will significantly impact search results and rankings, most people tend to start to panic. And when we panic, we aren’t able to see the real picture.
In this post, I’d like to share everything you need to know as a website owner about the Google mobile-friendly search update. We’ll start with how the update will work, how it will actually impact your website, and what you can do to gain the seal of mobile-friendly approval from Google.
Know how the mobile-friendly search results update will work.
Here’s what we know so far. On April 21, according to Google’s Webmaster Central Blog, Google will update their algorithm to deliver mobile-friendly search results to mobile users worldwide. It’s not an update that only affects browsers in select countries – it will affect everyone.
According to a Q&A with Gary Ilyes, we know that the update will be on a page-by-page basis. So you don’t have to update your entire website in order to take advantage of the rankings boost (or avoid a rankings decline). You just need to have the pages you want mobile users to discover to be mobile-friendly.
We also know from this Q&A that as soon as Google discovers that pages on your website are mobile friendly, they will reflect it in mobile search results. So you’re not at a complete loss if you don’t have your web pages optimized for mobile on April 21st. The sooner you do it, the sooner you may see mobile search ranking benefits.
Finally, we know from this Q&A that the mobile updates will not affect desktop search rankings. So even if your website has no mobile-optimized pages, your organic search traffic from desktop users will remain the same.
Know the statistics about mobile search.
Here are some great statistics about mobile search as a whole.
* Google is the preferred search engine of smartphone users. In 2013 according to Google’s Our Mobile Planet, the usage percentage was 94% in Canada, 95% in the UK, and 84% in the USA. Daily use of mobile search was 55% in Canada, 54% in the UK, and 61% in the USA. You can use Our Mobile Planet to determine usage statistics specific to your country.
* According to Google’s study on local search behavior, 50% of consumers who conducted a local search on their smartphone visited a store within a day, and 34% who searched on computer/tablet did the same. 18% of local searches on smartphone lead to a purchase within a day vs. 7% of non-local searches.
* In 2012, a study on mobile search by BIA Kelsey projected local mobile search would overtake local desktop search.
* According to Google’s study on the path to purchase, 48% of mobile research on products and services begins on search.
Just these few studies show that the use of mobile search is high, and is especially important for local businesses. The question is, how does this affect your specific website.
Find out how much traffic you actually get from mobile search.
If you use Google Analytics, you can quickly find out how much traffic you actually get from Google mobile search. This number is going to mean more to you than any statistic you find on the internet.
Start by going to your website’s Google Analytics profile and setting the dates to the last year. Then click on the + Add Segment button and name the new segment Mobile Search Traffic. Go to Conditions and choose google / organic as the Source / Medium and mobile as the Device Category. The setup should look like this, and the answer will be provided in the preview.
Here, you have the number of visitors to your website that you stand to lose if your website is not mobile-optimized.
See how that traffic has grown in the last several years to forecast continued growth.
Next, let’s look at the growth rate of your mobile search traffic. To do this, simply save your Mobile Search Traffic segment. Then click on the Compare to Previous Period checkbox in the date selector.
When you apply, you will see the growth of mobile search traffic to your website.
This data can give you an idea of whether you will be losing an audience that is growing if you do not have mobile-optimized content.
Identify the pages on your website that get the most traffic from mobile search.
Do you know what pages on your website generate the most traffic from mobile search? Using your Mobile Search Traffic segment, visit your Landing Pages report in the Behavior section of Google Analytics. Here, you will see the top pages receiving traffic from mobile search.
This report can help you determine two things. One, if your website is not mobile-optimized, you will know what pages to focus upon first so you do not lose the majority of your mobile search traffic. Two, if there is a page that you want to receive mobile traffic, but it is not listed here, you can give it a mobile makeover to increase its odds of gaining more mobile traffic.
Find out how many conversions you are getting from mobile search.
Finally, and most importantly, you will want to find out how much actual business you stand to lose if you sell products or services online to those on mobile devices from mobile search. Using your Mobile Search Traffic segment, visit your Reverse Goal Path report in the Conversions section of Google Analytics.
This report will give you a bird’s eye view of which pages generate the most conversions for your business. Whether they are product sales, lead form submissions, or email opt-ins, these are the pages you will need to make sure are mobile-friendly so you do not lose search traffic to them.
This report is also perfect to give to your boss when convincing them it is time for a change to your website’s design to make it mobile friendly. If you can associate a dollar amount to your conversions, you can give them a concrete number that they cannot ignore. Even if it’s only a small percentage of your business, the dollar value of it will make it worthwhile.
Use Google’s tools to test mobile-friendliness and usability.
For those that are not sure if their web pages are considered mobile-friendly, or those who have made changes to their web pages and need to test their mobile optimization, Google offers two great tools to use.
The first tool you have access to is the Google Developer’s Mobile-Friendly Test. This tool simply lets you enter a URL and lets you know if the page is mobile-friendly or not.
It will analyze your page and let you know the specific elements that need to be changed in order to make it mobile-friendly. It also gives detailed guides for website owners who use a content management system, website owners who hired a developer to create their website, and website owners who created their own website on how to make their website mobile-friendly.
The second tool that you have access to is the Mobile Usability Report inside Google Webmaster Tools. In order to use this tool, you will need to set up Google Webmaster Tools for your website. Then you can visit theMobile Usability Report to see if there are specific mobile usability issues you need to fix.
You can click on each issue to see what pages are affected and find a link on how to fix the specific issue.
Don’t forget page speed.
Just because your website is mobile-friendly, doesn’t mean that it is speed friendly. Although the April 21st update doesn’t include any mentions of site speed as a factor in rankings, mobile users are not going to stick around for long if your website takes forever to load.
Specifically, studies have found that 40% of visitors will leave if a website takes more than three seconds to load.
Google recommends WebPageTest to find out if your website loads quickly. You can select mobile browsers for testing your site to find out if its mobile performance is optimal.
Once you’ve run the test for specific pages you want shown to mobile users, you will find some of the things that need to be fixed (or removed, if possible) to make your pages load faster.
The faster you can get your website to load, the better.
You can also use the Google Analytics Site Speed report in the Behaviour section. This will allow you to track load times on your website over an extended period of time.
When you do make changes to optimize your website for speed, you can see whether they are making a difference compared to previous versions of your website.
Figure out your options for mobile optimization.
Depending on the platform your website was created with and the functionality you need to give your website visitors, mobile optimization can be a simple or involved process. It can involve adding plugin to your CMS, updating your website design, or having to create a separate mobile version of your website.
Google recommends responsive web design whenever possible. It not only makes your website mobile-friendly, but it also means that your HTML coding and URL stays the same for desktop and mobile devices. On the user side of things, it’s perfect because users can have the same experience on your website from their desktop, tablet, and smartphone.
Here are some responsive web design options for website owners who use the following website platforms.
Content Management Systems
If you use WordPress.com, you can choose from a variety of responsive themes from their directory. WordPress software users can find a world of responsive theme options throughout the web from marketplaces likeThemeforest and WordPress theme creators like StudioPress, Elegant Themes, and WooThemes.
If you don’t want to change your design, that’s alright too. WordPress software users can use plugins likeWPtouch or Mobile Pack to create a mobile-friendly version of their website without changing the look of their desktop version.
If you use another CMS platform, you will likely find some great responsive design options on theme marketplaces forJoomla, Drupal, and other platforms using their search. Or you can search Google for your platform name plus responsive theme, responsive design, or responsive template.
Most ecommerce software platforms have their own collections of responsive designs and themes. These include Magento, Shopify, and Bigcommerce. Alternatively, you can turn to theme marketplaces and search for your platform and responsive to find more design or search on Google.
For those that use landing page software, you will find that most offer responsive landing page templates. These includeUnbounce, and HubSpot. Alternatively, you can turn to theme marketplaces and search for additional responsive landing page designs for Unbounce and Instapage.
Not using a specific platform? That is not an issue either. You can find responsive HTML templates onThemeforest, HTML5Up, Webflow, Templated, and other similar sites. Some are even available free through Creative Commons licensing.
Google also recommends specific developers and services that can help you build a responsive website for your business. If none of the above options suit you, you may want to give these a try.
As mentioned before, this is a real-time update, so don’t panic. Aim to create a quality mobile-friendly experience for your visitors as soon as you can, and you will hopefully see a boost in mobile search traffic shortly after that. Also, keep page speed in mind, so you keep the visitors who click through in search!