Prepare Your Site For the Coming Google Algorithm Update
Are you ready for April 21, 2015?
That’s the date when Google has said it will update its search algorithm in order to improve the quality of its search results. Google updates its algorithm periodically, to keep up with search trends, device usage, and innovations in webpage designs. This Google algorithm update is specifically designed to improve the quality of mobile search by making sure mobile-optimized pages show up first in results.
Why is this important for you and your company? Simply put, if your site is not optimized for mobile, the Google algorithm update will downgrade its rank. Other sites that are more mobile-friendly will show up ahead of your site in search results. This can lead to a drop-off in traffic to your site. The average website gets about 16% of its traffic from organic mobile search—that’s the traffic you will be losing if you aren’t prepared for the update. On the other hand, if you are prepared for this update, you won’t just keep your traffic coming at a steady pace—you might jump ahead of your competitors.
How can you check if your website is mobile-friendly and ready for the Google algorithm update?
- Check your mobile-friendliness in Google Webmaster Tools. One of the many useful tools that Google Webmaster offers is a mobile-friendliness test. Plug in your URLs and it will tell you if they are mobile-ready or need improvement. Make sure to test more than just your home page—all your site pages need to be optimized for mobile.
- See if your content management system (CMS) has recommendations. If your site is hosted on a major CMS, like WordPress, Drupal, or Blogger, they are likely aware of the coming update and may have prepared a list of recommendations that are specific to your platform.
If your site has no mobile version at all, or is not optimized for mobile, talk to your webmaster and web designers to start the process of making your site mobile-friendly. There are several ways to update a website that will make it mobile-responsive, and they can help you and your company decide which one is best for you.
If your site is already mobile-friendly or has a mobile-version, you should still check to be sure that other quality factors will not lead to a downgrade in your search position. Here are a few ways to make it more likely that Google will consider your website a quality page:
- Make sure your pages are loading quickly. Google prefers pages to load in 1 second or less, especially on mobile. Sites that are slow and laggy will be seen as low-quality. Google Webmaster Tools has a section called PageSpeed Insights that can show you how long your pages are taking to load. If they’re too slow, adjusting things like your image resolution can help speed up load times.
- Check for 404 errors. Too many errors can have a huge impact on a site’s quality ranking. Update or delete pages that are producing 404 errors.
- Avoid excessive URL redirects. Google views excessive redirects as spammy, particularly on mobile where too much reloading wastes data. If you must use redirects, use them sparingly, and make sure they go to the correct place.
- If your site has videos, use HTML5 to host, not Flash. Mobile devices can’t view Flash content, so Flash videos will generate errors. The more errors on your site, the more likely it is that Google will downgrade its quality in search results.
- If your site uses a separate site path for mobile, make sure the links are mobile as well. Some sites use a separate URL for their mobile version (m.example.com). If this is the case for your site, all the links on your site need to link to the mobile version, otherwise they will not be viewable. A site where only one page is optimized for mobile isn’t really optimized for mobile at all.
Google’s ideal mobile site is responsive—that is, the site changes based on the size and layout of the device. Its ideal site is fast-running and fast-loading, with few or no 404 errors, broken links, or spammy redirects. It prefers sites without hidden or blocked content. While no one knows each and every item that Google takes into consideration when deciding how a site should rank, following these guidelines should help your page prepare for the Google algorithm update on April 21.