Mobilegeddon – How Will It Impact Irish Websites?

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Stephen Kinsella

STEPHEN KINSELLA Operations Director

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If Mobilegeddon is a new word for you, you are not alone. However, it is an important concept relating to Google SEO. It all stems from an announcement by Google that they will be making changes in mobile search. That is searches that are done with Google via a mobile device such as a smart phone. This new word Mobilegeddon has been coined by within the SEO space. Are the mobile search rankings as we know them going to go through a complete update? We’ve been warned, there will be changes in the results you will see on your smart phone when you carry out a search on Google.

Google is quite rightly pointing out that many more people are using mobile devices to do searches and they wish to deliver the best possible results to these people. In this article we will explore exactly what has been happening and what you may wish to do about it.

A WAKE-UP CALL

Rather than seeing the Google announcement as a signal that the end of the world is nigh, it should considered as a serious wake-up call. People are increasingly using mobile devices such as smart phones or tablets rather than lugging around laptops or working on desktop PCs. Indeed if these mobile devices had been invented first, it is highly unlikely that we would ever have seen laptops or home PCs.

They did come along in second place but many people are now switching to devices they can use anywhere while they are travelling. Even by mid-2014, it was seen that Mobile was then exceeding PC use. This reflected the biggest shift since the Internet began. This trend is continuing at an explosive rate.

GROWING NUMBERS OF MOBILE DEVICES GLOBALLY

It is hardly surprising that mobile devices are becoming such popular choices. This is not just a movement seen in the richer developed countries. By using cloud computing where the software is located on central servers and accessed by the Internet, people using very cheap cell phones can tap in to amazing knowledge bases.

This wide usage not only empowers vast numbers of people but also provides a strong incentive for improving technology. Google wisely encouraged this trend some years back by insisting that their developers should think “mobile first” as they developed new systems.

MOBILE ADOPTION IN IRELAND

Here in Ireland we have a strong showing as we move towards this mobile world. Smart phone use in the Republic hit a record high of 59% (QTR 2 of 2014). More significantly Irish consumers have an average of 3.1 connected devices. Ireland is rated 6th among 46 countries globally in terms of multi-screening, where a user is using more than one device at the same time.

Many of our companies are already aware of this strong trend. 56% of Irish advertisers have mobile optimized sites which is ahead of the EU average of 54%. Clearly these companies did not need any message from Google to know the importance of being visible to their increasingly mobile customers.

GO WHERE THE CUSTOMERS ARE

Of course those of the population who are still using desktop PCs cannot be ignored but this rapidly growing mobile audience deserves priority attention. Studies show that people using their mobile devices as they shop are much more likely to be buying products and services they have identified on their phones or tablets.

GOOGLE ADVISES CHANGE IN MOBILE SEARCH

Given this trend, many website owners will find the Google announcement hardly surprising. It has signalled that mobile friendly websites will be ranking higher in mobile searches:

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

As indicated above, more than half of Irish advertisers should have no trouble with this announcement. However over 40% of companies need to seriously consider the implications of this announcement.

TESTING WHETHER YOUR WEBSITE IS MOBILE FRIENDLY?

If you’re not certain whether your website is mobile friendly, then thankfully Google has provided a Mobile-Friendly Test. If you click on that link, you will see the following:

Hopefully when you do that this, you’ll obtain a result like this for your website:

If you do not receive this awesome seal of approval, how can you correct the situation? Here again Google comes to your rescue with the necessary information which it labels as Mobile SEO.

MOBILE SEO

Visiting the Mobile SEO webpage, you have the following portal to the necessary actions to achieve mobile friendliness. This portal then provides detailed information on the following topics:

CHOOSE YOUR MOBILE CONFIGURATION

First, learn what it means to go mobile and do it using one of three configuration methods.

1. Understand different devices
2. Understand key points in going mobile
3. Select your mobile configuration
4. Frequently asked questions

SIGNAL YOUR CONFIGURATION TO SEARCH ENGINES

Second, make sure search engines like Google can understand your mobile site setup.

1. Responsive Web Design
2. Dynamic Serving
3. Separate URLs

AVOID COMMON MISTAKES

Third, avoid common mistakes we often see on mobile websites.

1. Blocked JavaScript, CSS and image files
2. Unplayable content
3. Faulty redirects
4. Mobile-only 404s
5. App download interstitials
6. Irrelevant cross-links
7. Slow mobile pages

CONFIGURE FOR OTHER DEVICES

Fourth, configure your site to also be friendly on tablets and feature phones.

1. Tablets
2. Feature phones

Every line of the above summary of the Mobile SEO website contains a good deal of information and can imply a good deal of work. This will depend on the complexity of your website. If you have a WordPress website, then it may be that by choosing a different theme you can short-circuit all of this work and have a mobile friendly website.

In a summary article like this, we cannot treat all the details here but two particular topics are worthy of longer explanation.

RESPONSIVE DESIGN

Responsive web design responds to the needs of the users and the devices they’re using. The layout changes based on the size and capabilities of the device. For example, on a phone, users would see content shown in a single column view; a tablet might show the same content in two columns. This is an approach favoured by Google and they have provided much useful information. You can find more on their Responsive Design basics webpage.

In summary the responsive design approach presents the same content whatever the device may be but by offering a different CSS style sheet for each device, this can selectively change the amount of information or its disposition on the screen.

MOBILE WEBSITE/APP

Clearly different devices have very different screen areas to display information. Although different stylesheets may attempt to compensate for this, there are limits. In some cases someone using a smart phone may only require a small subset of what is available on the PC screen. In this case one may be well advised to consider having a specific webpage for each size of screen.

To ensure that the viewer sees exactly what the website owner intended, in some cases it may be very much easier to design an app for the specific mobile device.

THE BOTTOM LINE BENEFITS

Some feel that Google adopts a somewhat dominating position in modifying its approach to maximize its bottom line. In this case of requiring mobile friendliness of websites, some may see this as tough medicine but it is for their own good.

The truth is that the world is going increasingly mobile and businesses that choose to ignore this will lose out against their better informed competitors. If your website is not currently mobile friendly, then you would be well advised to set the correction of this problem as a top priority.

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Stephen Kinsella

STEPHEN KINSELLA Operations Director

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Stephen has over a decade’s digital marketing experience and 475+ client projects under his belt specialising in SEO, content marketing and local search marketing.