In a nutshell, Google announced on their Webmaster Central blog that “Starting April 21, we will be expanding our use of mobile-friendliness as a ranking signal” and also announced that they would be using more indexed content from apps in search results (which they’ve already started doing).
Common Questions in Regards to the Update
1. What is the mobile update?
Google recently announced that they would start factoring in mobile-friendliness as a ranking signal.
2. When will the update happen?
Google announced that the algorithm update will begin on April 21st, but keep in mind that the roll-out could take days or weeks.
3. Will this affect my desktop rankings?
From what Google has said, NO. Mobile-friendliness will only impact mobile rankings. This is important, because it suggests that desktop and mobile rankings, which are currently similar, could be different depending on the device being used to search. In other words, even though desktop and mobile SERPs look very different, if a site is #1 on desktop, it's currently likely to be #1 on mobile.
After April 21st, this may no longer be the case, however this will depend on the industry too. If you're in an industry, where most your competitors and websites don't have a mobile site either, then you may not notice much difference. Ultimately Google wants to deliver the best information and result, even if it is not mobile friendly. The idea is that Google will give some priority to mobile optimized websites. Exactly how much is yet to be known.
4. Am I being penalized for not being mobile optimized?
Google has implied that this is NOT a Penalty, most likely the mobile update will act more like a ranking boost.
5. Is this a domain- or page-based update?
From what we have learned, any mobile-friendly page can benefit from the update, and an entire site won't be demoted simply because a few pages aren't mobile friendly.
6. How can I tell if my site/page is mobile-optimized?
Google has provided a mobile-friendly testing tool to determine if your site is mobile friendly or not.
7. How often will mobile data refresh?
Google has suggested that this data will be updated in real-time. If a page or site becomes mobile-friendly, it should benefit fairly quickly.
8. What is a responsive website and does LinkU offer them?
A responsive website is a website design that adjusts automatically to the size of the browser, or device used to view the site. Responsive sites can be more limited in design and more costly to update, since they can require additional work to create the different graphics and layouts to accommodate each screen size. For this reason, LinkU has offered mobile optimized sites since 2011 for the majority of our clients. As of now, LinkU does not offer responsive websites, however, our next version of the LinkURealty platform will offer a new administration panel and responsive web designs. This version is expected to be released later this year. Clients will have the option to use a special mobile version of our websites, or use a responsive design.
9. What mobile options does LinkU provide now?
Most our clients were provided a mobile site upgrade in 2011. Websites that don't currently have a mobile site option are our FS websites (aka FSBO websites) and shopping cart websites. However all other sites offer mobile optimized sites, which can be activated from your control panel. View this article on setting up your LinkU mobile site.
10. Why doesn't LinkU offer responsive sites?
Responsive sites can be very limited in design and more costly to update, since they can require additional work to create the different graphics and layouts to accommodate each screen size. They can be more difficult to edit for the end user, because they rely mostly on CSS to adjust elements for screen size, so can be easily "broken" by an end user adding content or copying and pasting content from other sources. Also, when designing a desktop AND mobile site in one, which is what responsive generally is, you don't get to give anyone the "best" possible experience for their device without a lot of extra code.
For these reasons and several others, LinkU made the decision to offer a specialized mobile sites, designed specifically for mobile, similar to realtor.com and many other sites. The reasons for this are a better mobile user experience, speed, since you are not loading an entire site, loading time is faster when on mobile networks and also because this would allow us to design a beautiful and cost effective site specifically for desktop users, rather than restricting options, because it needed to work on both mobile and desktop.
11. What are LinkU's plans for the future, regarding mobile and responsive websites?
We are currently working on our new platform, which will offer both responsive and mobile options for our clients. Since design has evolved to become more "simplistic" and mobile is increasing over time, responsive sites are becoming the norm, not only that, but its a popular "buzz" word that clients want, regardless if its the best option or not. In either case, our new platform will be sure to impress and will be available late 2015. See below for specific details on product and service types.
We are currently working on ways to convert most our pages to be responsive compatible by the end of 2016. Our fully responsive sites will be the available on the LinkU new platform late 2016. An upgrade may be required for all existing clients who wish to use responsive designs and the new platform. Custom sites can optionally be created responsive now, so they can be moved to the new platform more easily later.
LinkURealty FS Websites
As of now, due to the complexity of the FS websites, sign up process and search functions, no mobile site is currently available. We are considering releasing a mobile version minus these features for those clients who insist on a mobile version, prior to the release of our responsive platform, but no decision has been made as of yet.
Once the new platform is released, FS websites will be available using only responsive designs, which will be hopefully be available late 2016. An upgrade will be required for all existing FS clients who wish to use responsive designs and the new platform.
LinkU Web Design Websites
These sites are expected to also be available on the new platform early 2017, due to the shopping cart build-out. An upgrade may be required for all existing clients who wish to use responsive designs and the new platform. Custom sites can optionally be created responsive now, so they can be moved to the new platform more easily later.
How Much Mobile Traffic Do You Actually Get from Search?
Before panicking over the upcoming mobile update, you need to take a step back and evaluate whether urgency around the April 21st deadline is warranted based on the realities of their business.
A starting point for understanding how urgent and the degree of impact an update like this will have on your business is to check your website stats and see what kind of Organic results you are getting from mobile searches.
Within LinkU Stats or Google Analytics, you can quickly get a sense of the overall mobile traffic to your site.
Checking Mobile Traffic in LinkU Stats
You can see that for this site, mobile traffic makes up about 15.8% of all traffic.
Checking Mobile Traffic in Google Analytics
Within Google Analytics, you can quickly get a sense of the overall mobile traffic to your site by navigating to Audience > Mobile > Overview and looking at the breakdown of desktop / mobile / tablet
You can see that for this site, mobile traffic makes up about 3.84% of all traffic.
The Real Effect... How Much Organic Mobile Traffic from Google?
Your site’s overall mobile and tablet traffic and goals should absolutely factor into your overall business decision, so note those numbers. But, for the change on the 21st, we’re particularly interested in search traffic, so we’ll need to use an advanced segment to look only at organic traffic.
LinkUStats Mobile Segment
Of the 15% of total mobile traffic, only 13 visitors actually came from an organic search, so the real amount of traffic at stake currenty is about 1.3%.
Google Analytics Mobile Segment
Of the 3.84% of total mobile traffic, only 72 visitors actually came from an organic Google search, so the real amount of traffic at stake currenty is about 0.93%.
Also keep in mind, that most sites work pretty well on tablets, even if not mobile friendly or responsive, so these numbers could be lower, since they include tablet use. However, Google likely will still adjust results for tablets anyway, so that is why we are including them.
So to recap, if you’re worried about the impending mobile friendliness update, there are some straight-forward next-steps you can take to determine how to prepare:
- Look at your analytics to get an idea of the actual business impact mobile traffic has on your business currently.
- Use the tools listed above to determine if your site has mobile usability issues.
- Contact the LinkU Client Services to get an idea of costs or requirements needed to setup your mobile site.
- Take all of that information and determine the best course of action for your business as a whole as you prepare for Google’s mobile friendliness algorithm update.