The Brand Survival Guide to Google’s Major Mobile Update

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In less than two weeks, Google will be rolling what will likely be its biggest search engine algorithm update in years. This update will adjust sites’ search rankings based on their mobile-friendliness. When it rolls out, will your brand’s web pages be rewarded or punished for their performance on mobile?

Well over half of all web traffic is  now driven by mobile devices, including 40% of Google’s paid search clicks. So it’s no surprise that the search engine giant would make a big push to bring sites with a mobile-friendly experience to the top of their results pages.

There have been plenty of predictions over in recent years by leading SEO experts anticipating this update (not to mention the common-sense value of catering for a more mobile audience). Nevertheless, many companies (even big brands) have dragged their feet when it comes to transitioning to mobile. And they’re poised to receive an unpleasant surprise by the end of the month when their search rankings, traffic, and business start to drop beneath competition that offers a superior mobile experience.

What to Expect

The update will begin on April 21, according to Google. At that time, the search engine’s web crawlers will start evaluating sites on a page-by-page basis, and probably heavily reward any that meet at least basic mobile accessibility standards.

Anyone who’s had their eye on the digital space for a few years will remember Google’s infamous pets, the Penguin and Panda updates, which rocked the SEO world and drastically changed how organizations approach website and digital content management.

Sites that had sat high on the search rankings for months or years suddenly found themselves thrown off the first page by the black-and-white beasties if they determined your site wasn’t up to par with their new standards.

The coming mobile update could be even more of a game-changer on Google. And other search engines are likely to follow suit with similar updates in the near future.

So if your business is one of those that is behind the times when it comes to mobile optimization, you could be in serious trouble when it comes to getting organic visibility online.

On the other hand, if you’ve been diligent in recent months or years in keeping up with best practices for web design and content creation, you could find yourself rewarded with a valuable spot ahead of competitors that let it slip through the cracks.

What Side of the Fence are You on?

Google has been fairly transparent on what they’re looking for in a well-optimized site in terms of mobile-friendliness.

But if you’re still unsure whether your pages stand to lose or gain from the update, there are two tests you can use to get a good idea.

  1. The first is Google’s Mobile-Friendly Test. Simply enter a page URL and see what Google thinks. If you get a favorable result, you’re probably in the clear. If not, you have some work to do.
  2. The second is to check out how a given page appears on a mobile device’s Google Search Engine Results Page. If the page has a “Mobile-friendly” tag on it, you’re in good shape. Pages that lack that label are candidates for a lower ranking.

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Keep in mind that each of these tests only show the mobile usability of one page, but not the entire site. So even if you test your home page and find that it’s mobile friendly, that doesn’t necessarily mean that other pages, like a blog entry or Contact Us page, are as well. You’ll want to make sure every page on all your sites is ready for the big update!

Behind on Mobile-Friendliness? Don’t Panic.

If you suspect you’re at risk of taking a big hit on the 21st, there’s plenty of reason for concern but little need to panic.

The bad news is that you’re likely to see some significant short-term drops in your search rankings.

But the good news is twofold.

  1. One, that the algorithm will rate sites on a page-by-page basis. So if your most important pages are optimized, they shouldn’t be dragged down too hard by other pages that aren’t.
  2. Second, the update isn’t aiming to punish pages long-term for their mobile usability. So once you bring an outdated site up to modern mobile standards, it should start returning to its former place in the SERPs fairly quickly.

How to Please Mobile Consumers and Powerful Search Engines

Today’s web puts a lot of demands on companies. If you want to grow your business and succeed online (and you probably should), you must be able to keep up with an increasingly mobile audience and the constantly shifting expectations of search engines that can make or break your future.

If you’re unable to keep pace on your own, you’ll probably need to rely on the talent of someone who can, such as:

  • Web developers than can create online properties accessible on any device.
  • Creatives that can generate content that will engage customers sitting in front of a PC or browsing on their phones.
  • SEO experts that can anticipate coming trends and keep you ahead of the game, not  scrambling to react to the whims of Google.

Depending on your situation, you may find it effective to work with an agency or bring that talent in-house with a full-time hire through a mobile marketing recruiter. Another option to get yourself up-to-date in a hurry is to turn to mobile marketing staffing professionals or even the expertise of a mobile consultant. Whatever you choose, make sure you do it sooner than later or risk significant losses to your business.

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