By now, you’ve probably heard plenty about the incoming April 21st update being colloquially referred to as “Mobilegeddon.” While Google has been in the business of rewarding mobile-optimized sites for years now, they’ve decided the time has come to make a bigger stand for ubiquitous mobile-friendliness on the web.
Mobile devices are a big deal in the modern world, responsible for a large percentage of all searches and web activity that’s growing larger with every year. In addition, every year brings us new generations and new styles of mobile devices that need to be accounted for in any online strategy. As Google readies itself for a future dedicated to the ever-growing base of mobile users, your business has one last chance to get ready for the first landmark update.
“Mobilegeddon” actually only refers to one Google update—the yet-unnamed algorithm change that Google plans to roll out starting on April 21st. If you want to survive, you’ll have to make sure your site complies with the new standards the update will set forth.
The purpose of the update is to ensure mobile accessibility across the web. While Google already indicates whether a site is mobile-friendly or not in mobile search results, and sites that are mobile-friendly rank higher than sites that are not in both mobile and desktop searches, this update intends to push the envelope further.
As far as we know, the update is going to be a simple on-off determination. There is no sliding scale for sites that are partially optimized for mobile or starting to be optimized for mobile—after this update, Google is going to see your site only as optimized or non-optimized. It stands to reason that if your site is non-optimized, it is going to be hit with a penalty. It is also known that the update is going to apply to an entire site—meaning you can’t just optimize your home page for mobile and leave the rest of your pages behind. The exact specifications of the update are currently unknown, and are unlikely to be revealed even after the algorithm change rolls out.
The algorithm change will affect Google’s entire system, meaning there are no websites that will be excluded from judgment. The update is also said to be bigger than both Google Panda and Penguin, meaning it’s going to affect the ranking of a greater number of sites for a greater number of queries than either of two of the most significant updates we’ve ever seen.This isn’t going to be a minor tweak—chances are, your rankings are going to change after this update, for better or for worse.
While the update will start rolling out on April 21st, as with most Google updates, it’s going to be rolled out gradually. Expect to see gradual changes in your ranking and the rankings of others over the course of a few weeks. The mobile update may also be prone to future adjustments, much like the regular iterative updates to both Panda and Penguin that have come over the years.
Now that you know the full size and scope of the update, you should have a pretty good idea of what you can expect. If your site is determined to be mobile-friendly, you should be in the clear, but if your site isn’t, you could suffer a harsh ranking penalty. So how can you tell whether your site is ready for the update?
The Mobile-Friendly Test
The name says it all. Google is a gracious company, and they’re offering a free test for any website to gauge whether or not it is currently considered “mobile-friendly.” You can also judge this based on whether your SERP entry contains the phrase “mobile-friendly” next to your site’s title. All you have to do for this test is enter the URL of a specific webpage, and Google will analyze whether it is friendly. Keep in mind two things: first, every page of your site will need to be optimized in order to pass the test on April 21st. Second, there’s a chance the new update will take factors into consideration beyond the functionality of this mobile-friendly test.
The Mobile Usability Report
If you already have Google Webmaster Tools installed (as you should), you can run a much more thorough test to identify any potential issues across your entire domain. If you’re worried about a stray page here or there not being mobile-friendly but don’t want to enter all the URLs manually, this is likely the best option for you. Take note of any discrepancies, and take action immediately while you still have time.
If your site still isn’t mobile-friendly, there’s precious little time for you to take action, but there should still be enough for you to make a positive change. Implement a responsive design, select a responsive template in WordPress, or work with a developer to ensure a mobile version of your existing website is available for any mobile device that tries to access any page of your site.
If you can’t get this done by April 21st, you can expect to lose rank—but don’t panic. Google is a strict, but relatively forgiving company. Take the time to make the necessary mobile-friendly updates to your site, even if it takes you beyond April 21st, and eventually, you’ll see your rankings restored.