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March 16, 2015

Google's Mobile Force Majeure

March 16, 2015

Mobile Phones

If you haven’t heard it yet, take heed: Google is making the ultimate “mobile friendly” move by prioritizing mobile and responsive websites in search results beginning April 21st, 2015. Read the full article here.

From the GOOG itself:

"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."

Think Like a User

“Mobile First” has been a concept since we became glued to our screens, but mobile usage hadn’t reached a tipping point until the last few years when:

  • Mobile phone carriers got addicted to selling “data plans.”
  • Phablets became a thing.
  • Laptop market growth slowed.
  • Responsive web design became the gold standard.
  • Google started installing Fiber internet. To get more people on the internet.
  • I started reading books in bed on my phone so my infant wouldn’t wake up.

Sorry guys, it’s my fault. But admit it, you do it too! And that’s why Google is prioritizing mobile optimized content: we have tipped the scale ourselves by consuming enough content on mobile devices.

Think about it: Google’s ultimate goal is to get you to come back (and to click on an ad when you do). In order to get you to keep using its search engine and bevy of products—you MUST have a great experience. You expect to find the answer to your question quickly, and only within 1 or 2 clicks. If the experience starts to waver, you won’t search as often. You’ll stop clicking on ads. And heaven forbid… they would need to close their free gourmet cafeteria for employees!

The Opportunity

If you needed a concrete reason to invest in a mobile web experience, here it is. Before jumping in, though, keep in mind that you have a few options at your disposal that may help mitigate an immediate Google rankings drop:

  1. The band-aid: there are mobile emulator software apps that can re-skin your existing website with a mobile front-end. There’s definitely a little coding involved to make sure Google sees the mobile version of your site, but it may allow for a temporary fix. Try Dudamobile, which will show you what the site looks like on a phone pretty quickly.
  2. Test your site with a Google tool: Google is offering a mobile-friendly test app to gauge your site and you can also run a mobile usability test on your site to determine usability issues.
  3. Google Analytics data: are your customers even using your website via their phones? You can find out by digging into Google Analytics in the “Audiences” section. If they are, you can also find out which pages are most often visited and/or cause visitors to bounce via mobile. This will help prioritize mobile content for…
  4. Website redesign: yup, to achieve the ultimate consistent brand experience on the web, you may need to consider a responsive redesign. If the bullet must be bitten, make sure to take the time to understand mobile user behavior via analytics and user testing during a thorough discovery & planning phase. No need to use your gut when you have the same user data as Google at your disposal!

This shift has truly been a long time coming and I’m personally excited to see the impact it has on the mobile search experience. Before we know it, crazy wearable technology will be guessing what we need before we know we need it so let’s take this moment to enjoy the amount of control we have over our decisions!

Image source: Kevin via Flickr

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