Last week Google announced on its Webmaster blog its intention to begin putting more value on a site’s “mobile-friendliness” when evaluating its ranking for a given keyword search. This could have a serious positive or negative impact on your business, depending on which side of the mobile experience divide you fall.
About half of all web traffic is moved by organic inquiries on search engines. That’s a huge amount of visibility and traffic that you could be driving to your site as potential sales. So when your SEO isn’t on point, you risk losing your unpaid traffic and slowing down your business. As more and more users search with their mobile devices first, it’s become incredibly important to provide them with a seamless, responsive experience–something search engines have begun integrating into their algorithms.
Yet despite how critical getting up to speed on mobile is, we’ve seen as a mobile marketing staffing firm that a staggering amount of businesses lag behind. Last year, at least 44% of Fortune 500 companies failed a basic mobile evaluation, and 91% of small businesses’ sites were not compatible for mobile use.
As Google ramps up its priority on mobile experiences, businesses should expect their organic traffic to shift accordingly. Here’s what you need to know about the upcoming algorithm update–and what you can do to survive it.
What to Expect
Starting at some time in May, Google will start putting more weight on the importance of having mobile-friendly site pages and content when evaluating rankings for organic searches, especially for users searching on mobile devices. The rollout will come into affect over time, and may take a while to fully impact your SEO.
If your business has been on top of basic SEO staffing and your web properties already pass Google’s mobile-friendly test, you won’t be directly affected. However, you may inch your way up some Search Engine Results Pages by surpassing competitors who were not as proactive at optimizing their content for omnichannel consumption.
But if your business has any pages and content that have not been designed in accordance to Google’s mobile recommendations, then they’re at risk of tumbling down the mobile search rankings. That means less visibility, and less organic traffic that you can potentially convert into leads and customers.
Keep in mind that this mobile-friendliness evaluation will happen on a per-page basis. So even if your homepage is responsive, other content like a blog post, FAQ page or even an entire subdomain that doesn’t pass the test can fall in rankings.
Time to Panic?
The short answer: probably not.
One thing we all learned during the great mobile panic that happened around this time last year is that Google’s mobile-oriented updates, while meaningful, are not cause for knee-jerk reactions. Many publications and even experienced SEO experts were warning of dramatic ranking shifts and severe drops for sites that failed to provide basic mobile responsiveness and functionality. However, the reality was much more tempered, with a modest affect primarily on search on mobile devices.
The last “major” mobile update fell far short of apocalyptic, and this one probably will, too. That’s not to say that you should ignore it–just that you’re not at risk of falling immediately off the first page of the SERPs for all eternity. In fact, Google even says in its post that it’s still possible for highly relevant content to rank well, even if it’s not mobile-optimized:
“Remember, the intent of the search query is still a very strong signal — so even if a page with high quality content is not mobile-friendly, it could still rank well if it has great, relevant content.”
Finding Opportunity in Chaos
The good news is that this algorithm update isn’t a catastrophic threat to all your organic web traffic. The better news is that it can be viewed as a major opportunity to get an edge over your competition, establish your place in your industry as an accessible mobile destination, and grab some traffic that you otherwise might have missed.
You should also view this as an opportunity to reorient your business’s digital priorities and start laying a groundwork for the future. It should be obvious to any business leader that commerce and consumers are becoming more and more mobile every year, and that’s not a trend that’s likely to slow down. If you’re still in a position that mobile-oriented search algorithm updates could seriously impact your business, it should serve as a major wake up call and motivate you to modernize your digital strategy. In 2016 it’s simply inexcusable not to offer users at least a baseline mobile experience.
Act NOW to Make the Most of the Algorithm Change
At the time of publication, businesses will still have a couple of months before the new algorithm fully rolls out and starts fully impacting rankings. That means that fast-acting organizations have a little time to react before it has a long-term affect on their SEO.
If you start right now, it’s still possible to bring in the various expertise and strategy you need to endure the mobile search update before your traffic falls off a cliff. It will take a combination of SEO, web development, and content marketing talent–but it can be done. Whether you decide it’s finally time to recruit the appropriate digital marketing professionals full time, bring in an SEO consultant, or leverage mobile marketing staffing for a site update is up to you and should depend on your situation.
Regardless, if you act quickly enough then you could have your site mobile-ready by at least some time during the summer. But the longer you delay, the harder it will be to develop a strategy, find the right talent to execute it, and then actually implement the necessary updates in a timely fashion.