Should you be complacent with a mobile friendly badge for your website?

mobile devices

On April 21st Google will heavily impact search results for mobile users leaving many website owners scrambling to tick the mobile friendly box, but the question is that is having a page that passes as mobile friendly enough and should you be complacent?

Google has dropped a few pretty big hints that the speed of your website could become really important:

The slow tag in SERPs

Google has been testing showing a slow tag on its search result pages for mobile users. This could be really useful for people who are trying to find information while browsing on a mobile device via their mobile phone network. I expect that this could come into effect on or soon after April the 21st. This may not be a penalty but could severely impact click through rates.

Google launches a new light version of its website

Google sent a clear message about their dedication to mobile users by launching a lighter version of their website that will show for mobile users with slower speed connections. By showing for only people on slow connections it is clear that they are measuring user speeds and it is not unreasonable to expect that they would not show websites that they (Google) deem as slow to these users.

So what should you do?

Well the first thing that you should do is not to be complacent. In the past people have often ridiculed SEO’s asking for speed improvements to websites, and in some cases it is just stupid to fret over 0.03% improvement on some issue to improve a Google page speed score. But you should definitely look to make sure that your website is as mobile friendly and efficient as is practical to do so.

Common issues that seem to slow websites down significantly are:

  • Images that are not optimized for mobile. A full size image reduced to size to fit still needs the full file size to be downloaded. Ideally you should set up your website to show smaller file size images for mobile and tablet devices.
  • Remove any unused tracking scripts. Often it is third party scripts that slow down a website’s load time. It is easy to add a few for tracking, and then one for usability studying etc. It is important to look at reducing these, especially if they are no longer being used. You may look at one and think “Oh it’s only 150ms that it is adding to the page load” but that multiplied for users on a ropey mobile connection could be the straw that broke the camel’s back.
  • Minify and concatenate all of your JavaScript and CSS files. This can make websites load much faster and require less data. Lots of websites neglect to do this which is a shame as they are crippling themselves.
  • Enabling compression – This can be done easily with plugins or by editing the htaccess file.

My website doesn’t get a lot of mobile traffic why should I care?

If you don’t get much mobile traffic you may need to worry less about the update on the 21st for the immediate future but if your website relies on traffic that comes from search engines you need to ask yourself this: Where do you think it will stop? It won’t be too far into the distant future when a website that is fully responsive and mobile friendly will be deemed as higher quality than an equal site that isn’t.

So should you be complacent with a mobile friendly badge? No, I don’t think so unless you have done all that you can to ensure that your website is as fast and friendly as possible, or you could find your sit being beat by others who have similar quality content websites that have gone the extra mile.

Google announces doom date for non-mobile friendly websites

 

mobile devices

Google has announced that websites that aren’t mobile friendly will not rank as high on mobile search results from April 21st 2015. Google has made the announcement ahead of an algorithm update for the very first time, stating that websites that aren’t mobile friendly will be significantly impacted by the new update.

The news was announced on Google’s Webmaster Central blog on Friday stating that:

Starting April 21, we 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. Consequently, users will find it easier to get relevant, high quality search results that are optimized for their devices.

If you are not sure whether your website is mobile friendly you can check it using Google’s mobile friendly testing tool. The news by Google isn’t entirely unexpected although the short delay between the search giant’s earlier hints detailed in my previous post. This could leave many website owners scrambling to commission new responsive websites, which is ultimately great news for mobile users and web design companies.

My advice to website owners is to check your Google Analytics or other statistic platform and see what percentage of your traffic is from a mobile device. This will help you to build a clear picture of the potential impact on the 21st of April to you and your business. It is also worth taking regular records of your current website rankings on mobile and desktop devices so that ou have a benchmark to compare against after the update.

I personally think that while Google have said that it will affect mobile search results, it will ultimately contribute to the quality rating of the website in all results eventually. This is conjecture on my part but I am confident that this will eventually happen.

Image credit: Google

Now is the time to make sure your website is mobile friendly

Do you know how much of your Google search traffic uses mobile devices? Lots of website’s could lose that share of traffic soon after Google began mass emailing web-masters to notify them if their websites are not mobile friendly. The message sent out is unmistakable – make your website mobile friendly or it wont rank as well in mobile device search results.

Google-mobile-friendly-webmaster-warning1-800x480

 

These pages will not be seen as mobile-friendly by Google Search, and will therefore be displayed and ranked appropriately for smartphone users.

These messages are likely to cause panic among businesses concerned about the loss of traffic, or the potential opportunity to gain a place or two against competitors. People reacted strongly to the HTTPS warnings, although that was fuelled by companies looking to exploit the warning to sell more certificates and SEO work hours. No doubt this recent news will be used by every company pitching a responsive design to clients for months to come.

Unlike the HTTPS warnings by Google, which I think are pointless for man websites I think this is a bold and good move, as it could really help to drive websites to update improving the user experience for everyone. Lots of businesses have already been moving to responsive designs as they see their mobile visitors numbers grow.

What should I do if I get this warning?

If you have received this warning you should first evaluate how many of your pages are deemed not mobile friendly. If you have little to no mobile traffic you may not need to worry quite yet, however that could also highlight a need to improve your site anyway!

If you have a large portion of mobile web traffic, you should really get your website sorted as soon as you can, especially if it is a revenue generating website.

I would then look at getting your website re-made to be responsive if you deem it to be worth your while. If you have a WordPress blog or similar there are loads of free themes available to use.

Other implications

I may be a bit cynical but if I was flagging a site as being non mobile friendly, I would also reflect that in the sites global quality score. Google haven’t said that they will do this, but I personally think that it will become yet another of the hundreds of ranking factors contributing to your site on all platforms.

Google have made a statement and I really advise you all to plan now and react, before it is too late. They have made a really strong statement, with action surely to follow.

The SEO royal big three your website needs to rank well

 

kings-queens-and-jacks

As complicated as many SEO people would like to make it sound, SEO still boils down to 3 main areas which I like to call my big 3 of SEO. Just like a royal family all have their place and without one they can’t perform all of their royal duties. Hopefully I will be able to give you a good understanding of the areas you need to cover.

I know some people like to work out that you need to mention your keyword 3.63 times per paragraph and tell you to hop 4 steps to the left while crying “no Bing, Google is my queen!” but this isn’t really the case. Here are my royal family big 3 of SEO that you should work on to improve your website.

Your Content

Content truly is king and if your website doesn’t have any good content it just isn’t going to last. Good content doesn’t have to be long content. The best content is often the most relevant and useful content possible for the term that someone has searched for to land on your site.

So what is good content? Having 9,000 words is no longer an ideal solution, as it just isn’t a good experience for a user. On many occasions a quality landing page will have a wealth of useful information accompanied by quality imagery or videos.

Spun content and sending 3,000 shitty links from your super elite blog network provider may get you to the front pages but you will soon get penalised. Of course, this plan works for those that rely on turn and burn websites for profit. There is more to it than that of course!

Your Website’s Structure

If content is king then the structure of your website is queen. Your website platform is as important as the quality of tyres on a car in an emergency stop manoeuvre. Good quality content is useless if it is almost impossible for search engines to read and understand it. I have seen clients reap huge benefits from implementing changes to their website that I have recommended. For a lot of websites, the initial on site recommendations can bring a huge early win for you and your clients. So what do you need to consider?

Is your code clean and complete? Make sure that your website’s code is semantically sound. Ensure that rich snippets are used where possible, that your code isn’t bloated and that your website behaves as expected. Clean code isn’t going to make you rank at the top, but it will allow search engines and other bots to understand as much as possible what your website and its’ content is about.

Is your structure good? Make sure that you make a good use of your headers. If you use images make sure that the files have legible descriptive name, just like the ALT text. This can help search engines to know what the image is likely to be a picture of. Don’t focus too heavily on one keyword in your copy, having a good mix of keywords and terms will look more natural and fluid to people and search engines.

Is your site fast? Google has made a lot of noise about how a faster website offers a much better user experience.

Can a search engine tell what your page is about? Does your entire content match what a user would expect to see when they visit your page?

Is your website mobile friendly? Google has recently started to label mobile friendly websites and is likely to give preference to these to a large degree in mobile search results. Check to see how mobile friendly your website is with Google’s tool here.

Endorsement of your website

The prince and princesses of your website are endorsements. The prince is links and the princess is social media (or the other way round if you prefer).

Links

People linking back to your website and its content is critical if your website is going to rank anywhere near the front pages. Every link to your site is seen as an endorsement. Not all links are the same though. 10 amazing authoritative websites linking to yours can be more powerful than 200 low quality ones.

Social Media

A website that is popular on social media often ranks well in search engines, although this is more of a correlation than a cause. The benefits of social media are often not fully recognised by people looking to increase their website rankings and traffic.

The more liked, tweeted and shared etc your website is the better. This provides signals to search engines that your content is popular, which in theory means that it is great quality.

Social media is also a great source of traffic so it can be well worth choosing the right social media networks for you and your website and engaging with people on them. This doesn’t mean just posting your content from your website once a week. To get the best out of social media you need to dedicate plenty of time to it and engage with others in a genuine way, as spammers are as transparent as glass.

There is no fixed formula for the above, but most websites require a mix of them all to rank well at the highest that they possibly can. So make sure you try to improve all 3 on your website.

You don’t need an exact match domain to be number 1

I have heard that “you have to have an exact match domain to be number one in Google” so many times that I now cringe when I hear it. I know of some people that refuse to invest time in a website unless it does have an exact match domain, especially people that work in affiliate marketing.

I will be the first to admit that I am happy when I get an exact match domain to own or work with. Yes they do have an advantage, but not as much as they used to have. What is much more important is having relevant content and a good SEO strategy in place based on a sound platform (good onsite SEO). Continue reading

Low Quality Blogs – Google Parrot Update Target?

Google parrot updateHaving a blog has long been rumoured to help SEO. Sadly what most people don’t get is that a car is great for travel, if you can drive it well… There are so many bad “blogs” out there now that I wonder if Google is looking for a way to sort the wheat from the chaff in its next parrot update. (I decided to call it the parrot update because I’m sick of hearing about panda update 3.142b etc.!)

When it emerged that Google was looking at fresh content as a ranking consideration people selling SEO rubbed their hands with glee across the world. If Google has said that fresh content is a must it is an easy sell to people who have relatively static websites. “Just post news and events articles on your blog a few times a day containing keywords and the world will be your oyster”. Continue reading