On March 10, Google did something surprising and a little scary. They made an announcement.
Now, Google makes lots of announcements. Over the years they’ve announced cool things like Gmail, weird, upsetting things like Google Glass, and funny things like a fictitious messenger pigeon service. Nobody would be much surprised at this point if they announced they’d made contact with space aliens.
But the March 10 announcement was a little different, because it was the sort of thing Google had never done.
They warned us that they’re updating their search algorithm on April 21 which will take effect as soon as your website is crawled.
See, that’s odd. Google updates its search algorithm all the time. It’s pretty frequent, actually. But they never tell anyone in advance, and most of the time, we just have to try and divine what actually changed by analyzing how search is working afterward. They don’t like telling us what they’re doing precisely because they don’t want us to try and game the algorithm. They don’t want us to try and figure out how SEO can trick them.
But this time, they did. They told us what they’re changing. And it’s huge. This is a major earthquake (searchquake?) and you need to be ready for it.
The change sounds innocuous enough: they’re going to prioritize mobile-optimized content on mobile search. Seems reasonable, right? It makes sense they’d want to be sure that people on smartphones were served content they could actually peruse without a ton of panning and zooming. But then – you remember. You remember some hard numbers.
Over half of all Google searches are conducted from mobile devices. And 90% of all mobile web experiences begin with a Google search. And that mobile is the fastest-growing segment of internet traffic period.
Suddenly it doesn’t seem so innocuous. Suddenly – it looks like a tidal wave.
If your website isn’t optimized for mobile with either responsive design or a separate mobile site, you’re going to notice a significant loss of PageRank. And if your traffic is driven primarily by search – and admit it, you know it is – you can expect a drop in traffic that could prove enormous. Think of the lost prospects. Think of the lost leads.
Now’s the time to start planning a mobile strategy if you haven’t already. At Hudson Fusion, we strongly recommend adopting responsive design, as it avoids cannibalizing your search ranking by sending every visitor to the same URL – but as a stopgap, you can begin by creating mobile versions of key content. Because Google is prioritizing mobile content, your overall search ranking won’t be affected, and you can count on it ranking even individual mobile pages highly. So, if nothing else, make sure your key traffic drivers are compatible with the new search regime in time and you’ll be doing a lot to mitigate its effects.