Adapting to 'Mobilegeddon' in 5 steps

Wednesday, May 27, 2015 by Richard Howe

Adapting to Mobilegeddon in 5 stepsAccording to Google, the latest updates to their search algorithm (introduced on April 21st 2015) have now been fully ‘rolled out’. Our "Minimising the effects of Google’s ‘Mobilegeddon’" post gave you the main facts about what exactly was changing this time around, but now that it’s been a couple of weeks since the update, we thought we’d dive in a little deeper and offer some advice on what you should be doing to adapt to the changes.

So what’s the fallout been?

According to most website monitoring gurus, it seems that ‘mobilegeddon’ has not created such an impact as might have been expected. Although there are some sites (often those that are particularly mobile-unfriendly) that are starting to lose out in terms of their mobile rankings, the results are not as dramatic as experienced with previous Panda and Penguin updates. At least, not so far.

Of course, this might in part be because website owners were made aware of the forthcoming changes ahead of time, back in December 2014. Recently, Google themselves announced a 4.7% increase in mobile-friendly sites during March and April, probably as a result of the algorithm change, so it’s clear that people were looking ahead and making early adjustments to their websites.

What does this mean?

With the fallout thus far being less significant than envisioned, does this mean that you needn’t worry about making your website more mobile-friendly? We don’t think so. In fact, this set of changes is likely to be just one step in an increasingly mobile-friendly approach from Google, one that started a couple of years ago in 2013. If your site isn’t yet mobile-friendly, there’s really no time like the present to make the shift.

5 things to do now

1. Use Webmaster Tools

Firstly, you’ll need to identify anything that Google doesn’t like about your site. Go to Webmaster Tools, click on ‘Search Traffic’ and select ‘Mobile Usability’, where you’ll see any areas that have been flagged up as issues. Make a list of these areas and decide on a plan of action to fix them.

2. Fix font sizes

A common error is small font sizes. Text needs to be readable on a mobile device without a user having to zoom in, so it’s important to ensure that your site meets the requirements. As a guide, use a base font of 16 CSS pixels and adjust as an appropriate percentage depending on the individual fonts used.

3. Adjust spacing

Another issue you might find is lack of spacing between touch elements such as hyperlinks or buttons. Any ‘touchable’ content needs to be far enough apart that it is easily tapped with a finger on a mobile device. The best way to test this is for several people to try it out on a physical smartphone to see whether it’s practical. For many sites, this requirement may necessitate a complete website redesign.

4. Avoid content overload

If your content can fit the screen without scrolling and zooming, so much the better. Keep your copy succinct to ensure that it’s engaging and readable all the way through, and keep any images, videos or other elements relevant.

5. Eliminate Flash

Flash isn’t supported on mobile devices and its usage will be penalised under the new algorithm. If you haven’t created alternative videos to your old Flash versions, you’ll need to do so now.

Keeping ahead of the game

Google’s algorithm will scan each page individually and operates in real time, so if you’re implementing your changes in a step-by-step process, rather than all in one go, concentrating on the pages that attract the most traffic makes sense. But while you’re making the necessary changes, you can be sure that Google are looking to their next update. If you want to stay ahead of the game, here’s what we think you might need to do next:

  • Optimise for tablets. Whilst they’re not affected by the latest changes yet, it’s only a matter of time.
  • Add deep linking to your Android app – SEO isn’t exclusive to websites any longer.
  • If you have an Android app, getting its content indexed in search results will allow users with your app installed to open content directly from search results.
  • Minimise load times so that your site loads in under a second – use Google’s own PageSpeed Insights tool to check for any issues.

In a future blog post, we’ll look in more detail at some of these areas, but for now getting all your pages mobile-friendly (or adopting a responsive design solution) should be high up your priority list. Not just to ensure your search engine rankings aren’t affected too negatively, but more importantly to give your mobile users the best experience you can.

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