As you know, Search Engine Optimization is a constantly evolving game. Within the past five years, Google has made significant, tectonic shifts to its search algorithms (the logic behind how it evaluates, ranks, and lists search results on its SERPs or Search Engine Results Pages). April 21 will bring the next big change and I want you to be ready for it.

The changes Google will make to its search algorithm will focus primarily on mobile search, giving more significance and authority to websites that are optimized for mobile devices (designed and built with responsive web design techniques to ensure mobile-friendliness). From Google’s announcement:

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.

We’ve been building responsive websites for years, which means if we’ve built your website then you’re most likely already halfway there. If your website isn’t responsive, that should be your first and most urgent priority since mobile-friendliness will be Google’s primary “ranking signal” for their new mobile search update. Contact us immediately to get that conversation started. Many times we can make an existing website responsive without a prohibitively large investment of time, which could be a great way for you to quickly prepare for Google’s search update.

Simply having a mobile-friendly website isn’t all you need to do, though. There are a few other steps you should take to ensure your responsive website is seen by Google, fully “searchable” by Google’s search engine, and indexed accurately. If you find yourself unsure of how Google sees your mobile-friendly website or if you know you’re not up-to-date with Google’s mobile search requirements, here are a few steps you can take to get your website aligned with Google’s expectations for a mobile-friendly website.

Step One: Figure out where you stand with Google.

The easiest and fastest way to find out where you stand in Google’s mobile search mind is to use Google’s own Mobile-Friendly Test tool. Just plug in your website address (URL) and Google will tell you in plain language whether your website is mobile-friendly. If your website doesn’t pass the test, give us a call and we’ll take a look at it for you.

Step Two: Assess your mobile visibility and traffic behavior.

Having a responsive website is good, but it’s only the beginning. Making sure your website visitors can find what they need quickly is vital to the success of your mobile-friendly website and Google takes that into consideration, too. To better understand how people use your website, open your Google Analytics dashboard and your website account in Google Webmaster Tools and look at the data related to mobile traffic.

  1. Are the top searches that lead to your website on desktop and on mobile the same or different? If they’re the same, then you might need to make adjustments to your mobile website search listing to target searches related to the information mobile users would seek. For example, mobile users might be looking for quick, useful information (such as a way to contact you) while desktop users might have more time to spend looking for longer content, such as information about your company.
  2. Which searches have the highest click-through rates on mobile? Which have the lowest? If you’re seeing high click-through rates on desktop, but not on mobile searches, you might not be meeting the needs of mobile searches in your search results. If this trend continues, Google may reduce the authority of your listing based on that assumption. You can combat this scenario by optimizing mobile-relevant pages more heavily for mobile search, targeting mobile search terms specifically on pages that mobile users want to visit. (Again, think short, actionable content — contact information, reservation forms, hours, etc.)
  3. How does the bounce rate differ between desktop and mobile? If you find the bounce rate on visitors coming from mobile searches is typically higher than that of desktop searches, take a fresh look at the landing pages where those search results are sending your visitors. You might find that the information on those pages is less relevant to mobile users.

Step Three: Tell Google to take a fresh look at your website.

Did you know you can tell Google which pages to search, what to look for, and what pages you do and don’t want showing up on SERPs? You can use Google Webmaster Tools (GWT) to hone your Google search results listings and optimize those listings for mobile. Once GWT is installed on your website, you’ll be able to tell Google to re-index your website, look for specific pages and/or exclude specific pages, and what pages should be considered most important for their SERPs. GWT has many other great features, too, so take some time while you’re there to discover all that you can do.

What if I don’t have time to do all this?

Most people don’t have time to learn all the jargon and techniques, make technical changes to their website, and then spend the time evaluating and refactoring everything so their website is optimized for Google’s search updates. If you find yourself in that group, the best thing to do is find a web developer who understands Search Engine Optimization and commission him or her to make these initial updates for you. Depending on the status of your website, it may only take a few hours for an experienced web developer to make these changes.

If you’d like us to help you with these changes, give us a call. We’d love to help.