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Are you ready for Google’s latest update?

Another year, another Google algorithm update. Rather than black and white animals (see the immortal panda and penguin updates), headlines and online commentators have been engaging in discussions about ‘mobilegeddon’ – the latest Google update aimed at changing mobile search results to favour websites that have been optimised for mobile over those that have not.

Last year, a study, conducted with small businesses both in the US and the UK by directory and advertising provider Hibu, found that only 6 percent of small businesses had a mobile optimised website. More worryingly, 45 percent of the businesses asked didn’t have a website at all. To place these statistics into a business context, nearly 19 percent of the total revenue of the small businesses surveyed came from online sales. This means that not having a website, or having one that hasn’t been optimised, will have a significant impact on profits and growth. So if you haven’t got round to optimising your site, now’s the time to do it.

The latest update came with some warning, as developers were notified earlier this year with information on a blog post from Google – and provided a tool (more on this below) that tests URLs and reports on whether pages are mobile optimised or not. Over the week since its release, SEO experts seem to be reporting that the update hasn’t had as negative an impact as first expected. That said, Google has noted that it may take a few weeks for the impact of the updates to be fully realised.

In reporting on who it felt were the ‘winners and losers’ of ‘mobilegeddon’, Searchengineland.com cited NBC, Vogue and Bloomberg as sites that have witnessed a drop in their rankings because of the update. This goes to show that businesses of all sizes have yet to prioritise optimisation.

The update, which was trending online last week and has dominated conversations online since, can be seen as a positive way to remind businesses of all sizes of the importance of having a mobile-optimised site. So what changes can you make to your site to stay ahead of the game?

What you can do

Use Google’s tool

This online tool analyses URLs and runs reports to assess whether your site will be listed as ‘mobile friendly’ or not. All you have to do is insert the URL of the site you want to test, wait for Google to work its analytical magic, and read through the results. It will explain what makes the site mobile friendly or not, and will take you through an extensive trouble-shooting process to help you make the necessary improvements.

Check your data

You can use Google Analytics to check where your data is coming from. Setting up an account is really straightforward – just head to the Google Analytics site, click ‘Create an account’, create a property (this really just means inserting your website URL) and then follow the instructions to set up web tracking.

If you can see that traffic levels via mobile are low, it’s a cue that you’d benefit from making adjustments to your site to capitalise on the increasing shift toward mobile.

Design

Simplifying your page layouts using less text and not being afraid of white space should all make your website more user friendly for navigation on mobile.

Avoid Flash & Java

These applications can affect how well Google can ‘read’ your website, which in turn will affect your site’s rankings.

Use mobile redirects

These will detect whether visitors are coming from a mobile device or not, and then redirect them to a mobile-optimised version of the website. Check redirects regularly to make sure they work, as faulty redirects can also affect your mobile ranking. The best way to do this is by using redirect plug-ins on your site. For those using Joomla or WordPress, there are a number of plug-ins that you can install that will take care of this. For other platforms, simply search Google or the software’s website.

Read Google’s handy guide for more issues to look out for when it comes to mobile sites.



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