Late in 2014, Google sent hundreds of thousands of websites a warning to go mobile or loose SEO value. In February, the first algorithm change rolled out. Just like in 2012, the first sites hit were shopping carts that lacked the ability to quickly change.
“When Google introduced its mobile-friendly site criteria late last year it was indicated that it may be used as a ranking signal for the search algorithms in the future. Perhaps these warnings are an indication that Google intends to roll out a mobile-friendly algorithm update sooner than we all thought.” Search Engine Journal.
Google made it official on February 27th that – regardless of what happened to your website on Feb 4th – starting early in the morning on Tuesday, April 21, 2015, Google “will be expanding our use of mobile-friendliness as a ranking signal. This change will affect mobile searches in all languages worldwide, and will have a significant impact in our search results.”
This is not news for the website design industry. Google warned website design companies for 3 – 4 years that April 21, 2015 was coming. And, that miss-configured mobile sites would suffer ranking penalties; based on load time, text size, and viewport.
Shopping carts are expected to be hit hardest because they generally do not support using Google’s Webmaster tools. There is no way to put the Google HTML file in the root folder.
What Does it Mean for Your Website?
If you can access Google webmaster tools you are probably all right. Google will tell you what needs to be fixed. You might even see your ranking positions increase in organic traffic from mobile sources.
The first thing you need to focus on is page load speed. As the mobile traffic grows, and mobile search explodes, lost ranking positions will mean lost revenue.
The good and bad news is that your site doesn’t need to be responsive to pass Google’s mobile update. But not being responsive will still cost you sales.
What Are The Three Elements to Focus On:
The critical search engine optimization elements for a separate mobile site include:
- Tagging mobile and desktop variations of a page with rel=”canonical” and rel=”alternate” elements.
- Detecting and redirecting mobile user-agent strings correctly.
- Treating mobile search engine bots exactly like other mobile users.
Holy Cow! It’s Happening Now! – What Can I Do Between Now and April 21?
The short answer is nothing, but don’t freak out. Google will not crawl the entire web in a single day. The algorithm will unfold over time. The best strategy is to create a solid plan of action that involves incorporating Google Webmaster Tools, and then following Google’s suggestions.