April 21 may have been a dark day for sites that still hadn’t updated their platforms for mobile use, as Google unrolled its latest update.
This time, the algorithm change favored sites that allow users to easily view their content on the go. Additionally, the algorithm more heavily weighs content found in indexed apps when a user is signed in.
Why you should care
Mobile use is unlikely to be a fleeting trend, and the algorithm update is expected to match or exceed the changes seen from Panda or Penguin.
According to the Pew Research Center, 90 percent of adults in the U.S. own a cell phone and more than 40 percent own a tablet. Of these, a reported 7 percent classify themselves as “smartphone-dependent.” While that may not seem like a large number, the fact that “smartphone-dependent” is even a term should speak volumes.
Google’s Mobile Path to Purchase study revealed that 74 percent of mobile shoppers use a search engine to do research. The research also found that more than half of these consumers want to buy within an hour, so if your site’s not coming up in mobile search results, the buyer is probably going to go with a competitor rather than do more research on their desktop. Further, Google’s study determined mobile search to be highly influential, with 93 percent of mobile searchers eventually making a purchase.
Google reps have been quoted as saying the algorithm update will have a “significant” impact on search queries – potentially bigger than Panda, which impacted 12 percent of English searches, or Penguin, which affected 4 percent globally, according to Search Engine Land.
What you should do about it
First you should test your site for mobile friendliness. If you don’t pass, you can assess the damage with Webmaster Tools’ Mobile Usability Report. Your simplest solution might be responsive web design so you don’t need to change your URL, and you can also avoid redirection or wasted time on keeping several sites updated. Moreover, responsive design helps Google bots efficiently crawl your site and index content. Here’s a helpful infographic from Search Engine Land on dealing with what it dubbed the “mopocalypse.”
If you have a partner app, be sure to index it by adding deep link support and add the App Indexing API to drive traffic where you want it to go.
The good news for companies still working on optimizing their sites for mobile use is that the algorithm will assess in real time, meaning you won’t have to wait very long to get Google’s seal of approval for smartphone and tablet users. But mobile devices aren’t getting any less popular, so each day you put it off could mean business lost to more savvy competitors.