Google’s Algorithm Update: Why Your Site Should Be Mobile-Friendly

Tuesday, April 21st 2015 was a day just like any other. The sun came up, tour operators went about their day, people planned their upcoming Earth Day adventures, and when you checked your Google rankings, everything looked glorious.

Unless, of course, you missed Google’s warning in February about its new mobile algorithm update. If you’ve noticed a change in your search rankings, or your website traffic has shown a decrease since April 21, it may have to do with Google’s latest change to its search engine algorithm, or in more technical terms: mobile-friendliness. Basically, what this latest change means is the easier your website is to read on a mobile device, the higher it will be ranked in Google’s search results.

Since Google wants to ensure users discover mobile-friendly content when performing searches, they expanded their use of mobile-friendliness as a ranking signal.

Since Google wants to ensure users discover mobile-friendly content when performing searches, they expanded their use of mobile-friendliness as a ranking signal. Today, consumers are using mobile devices for practically everything: checking emails, posting blog articles, downloading applications, and, as you should be well aware, even booking vacations, tours, and weekend adventure activities. If you have a smartphone, chances are you’ve pulled up a non mobile-friendly website and were disappointed that it was difficult to navigate or read. Google’s new search ranking criteria will ideally make occurrences like that less frequent by listing mobile-optimized sites higher (when you’re searching from a mobile device) than those who still have work to do.

If you’re still getting acquainted with this update, below are three easy steps to help you get dressed for Google’s latest search party.

Step 1: Check Your Site for Mobile Friendliness

There are a couple of ways you can find out if your website pages are mobile friendly. Simply search for your specific page in Google and see if it has the “Mobile-friendly” label displayed in the results.

You can also check your page using the Google Webmaster Tool. Just make sure you’re entering the web-address exactly (i.e. if your site begins with “https://” don’t forget the “s”).

Step 2: Check Your Current Mobile Traffic

Margot da Cunha, content marketing expert at WordStream, a search marketing software company that shares online marketing advice, weighed in on the situation. “This is a rolling update which means that Google will continue to recognize changes you make to your site in the future. So, it’s important not to panic,” says da Cunha.

Still, she suggests tour and activity operators check to see how important mobile traffic is to their specific business, as this update will only affect mobile searches. “In Google Analytics, there is a reporting feature to see how much organic traffic you’re getting from mobile,” she says. “Focus on making sure that your highest traffic pages for mobile are optimized.”

How much mobile traffic should get your attention? “Well there is no magic number since everyone’s business is different,” da Cunha says. “But a reasonable number might be around 10 percent for mobile traffic. Just remember, if your mobile visitors represent less than 10 percent of your overall traffic, you still may not want to ignore this update because your site might currently perform poorly on mobile.”

In other words, if your current site isn’t user-friendly on mobile devices, your percentage of mobile traffic is going to be low. So be careful with this test so you don’t inadvertently miss out on an opportunity to improve your site for mobile visitors and capture more customers. If you’re still unsure, err on the side of caution and follow this guide. Then test to see if your mobile traffic increases over time.

Step 3: Start With the Important Pages

This means you’re going to want to update your home page and any other pages on your site that list your activity or booking information.

If you don’t have anyone within your company who knows how to make your website pages mobile-friendly, a quick search online will reveal many third party services and developers who can help. (Or at the very least, check out this Google help page: Mobile-Friendly Websites: Get Started). If you’re using WordPress, there are some mobile-friendly plugins you can explore. If you’re into high-end themes, the “X theme” (as well as others), comes fully baked with mobile friendliness out of the box, no plugins required.

Remember, Google should pick up any change you make relatively quickly from here on out so publish changes as you complete them to take advantage of better mobile rankings.

Other Useful Information

Da Cunha shared that pay-per-click advertisements will not be affected, so if you’ve invested in paid advertisements, those will still show up at the top of Google’s search results. Also, keep in mind the change will only affect searches from a mobile device, so searches from desktop computers and tablets will remain unaffected.

Even though Google’s update is already in effect, there’s no need to worry. Just make these few, easy updates so you don’t miss out on any more adventure-seekers.

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