What the Latest Google Algorithm Update Means for You

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On April 21, 2015, Google rolled out the latest update to its search algorithm. Although Google generally plays things close to the vest when it comes to the details of each update, this one was known to be centered around emphasizing mobile responsiveness. As the world grows increasingly mobile-dependent, Google has moved to prioritize responsive, mobile-friendly websites in its search results. Current estimates place as much as 50 to 60 percent of total web traffic as originating from mobile devices, and these numbers only continue to trend upwards.

The new algorithm is hardly a complete overhaul of the Google search result process, but the tweaks that have been made will certainly reward sites that make mobile browsing easier. For mobile web browsers, this is great news: desktop Search Engine Results Pages (SERPs) will be unaffected, but those browsing from smartphones or tablets will find that the results at the top of their searches will trend towards sites that they can easily view on their device. For web developers and website owners, the new algorithm represents an opportunity to gain traction and boost site visibility on relevant SERPs simply by doing something that all sites should already be doing: providing a great experience for mobile users.

To gain a better understanding of exactly what the new Google algorithm update means and how it has already impacted Google’s search results, let’s break it down piece by piece.

What does Google mean by “mobile-friendliness?”

If you regularly use your tablet or smartphone to browse the internet, chances are you already know the difference between a mobile-friendly site and a mobile-unfriendly site, even if you don’t consciously recognize it. Simply put, a mobile-friendly site is one that recognizes when you are accessing it from a mobile device and adjusts accordingly, sending you to a version of the site optimized for mobile viewing.

Websites that don’t do this tend to be frustrating to use. You’ve almost certainly stumbled across a website like this at some point–a site that uses the exact same layout on mobile devices as on desktop devices. Desktop sites are designed to be easily navigable using keyboard and mouse. On a mobile device that has neither, this can lead to a lot of zooming in and out, misclicks, unnavigable menus, and other annoyances that render the site anywhere from irritating to visit to downright unusable. Understanding this, Google has begun to take such factors into account, rewarding sites that make the effort to give users a positive user experience regardless of how they access the web.

If you’re not sure how mobile-friendly your site is, Google has a handy tool that you can use to test it. Head over to the Mobile-Friendly Test page through Google Webmaster Tools and give it a try.

Does the algorithm update affect me if I’m searching from a computer?

Nope! The updates only affect searches originating from a mobile device; in other words, the algorithm is tailored to provide the best possible mobile experience specifically to those who need it. After all, there’s no need to include mobile responsiveness in your search algorithm if the person searching isn’t viewing the site on mobile. Google is generally excellent at tailoring a unique user experience for each specific user, so it should come as no surprise that they can tailor their search algorithm to affect those who need it without diluting the search results of those who do not.

How dramatic is the overhaul?

The overhaul isn’t earth-shattering, but it is definitely noticeable. Don’t worry, Google didn’t suddenly reshuffle every search result to hinge solely upon the mobile-friendliness of websites. Mobile responsiveness is still just one of a large number of factors which determine search ranking; in truth, the programmers at Google are the only ones who know how each factor weighs into the final result.

That said, it’s important to understand that in the Search Engine Optimization (SEO) game, every little bit helps, and giving you and your site every possible advantage when it comes to improving your search ranking is critical. Your site might be just one of many containing content relevant to a particular search term, but if your site is responsive and mobile-friendly and your competitors’ are not, that might be the boost you need to pass them in the search rankings. This is critical to remember. In a science as fine and detail-oriented as SEO, it can be hard to tell what step might eventually put your site over the top. With that in mind, it’s important to check off as many boxes as you can, and the new algorithm change has provided a promising new range of possibilities.

Who benefits most from this algorithm change?

That depends. Some have argued that in the short term, small businesses have a distinct advantage: with less plodding infrastructure and greater ability to be reactive and adaptive to new situations, small businesses can make the transition to adhere to Google’s new guidelines more quickly and easily than large ones. Logistically speaking, it is much easier for a small business owner to call up a company like CleverLight and say, “hey, we need a mobile version of our website, can you do it?” than it is for a large company to push the funding and go-ahead for such a decision through the approval process.

In the long term, it’s probably a push. The algorithm update is just another way for Google to separate the good websites from the bad, and this gives businesses both large and small another way to differentiate themselves from their competition. As stated before, optimizing your website means checking off as many SEO boxes as possible, and this algorithm update provides another way to go about doing that.

What can I do to take advantage of the Google algorithm update?

If your website is already responsive, good news–you don’t have to do anything. If not, then you’ll want to go about building a mobile-friendly version of your site as soon as possible.

Unfortunately, making a responsive website isn’t a simple process. There are no quick fixes or easy patches that you can add to your code that will magically make your website operate smoothly on your phone. It’s a process that takes time, and one that should be designed specifically for your site’s needs.

Luckily, there are companies like CleverLight around to help make the process as pain-free as possible. A talented web designer can help you build a responsive, mobile-friendly version of your site that will not only boost your search ranking, but will make anyone visiting your site from a mobile device a whole lot happier. It might cost you some money, but, in 2015, having a mobile-friendly website has become an expectation rather than a luxury, and keeping your visitors and customers satisfied is important.

Sounds great. How do I get started?

If you need help creating a mobile-friendly website to take advantage of the new Google algorithm update, we can help! You can get started by clicking over to the contact page on the CleverLight website, or by sending an email to [email protected]. If you’d rather talk to us directly, you can do so by giving us a call at 603-685-0111.

About the author

Bill is one of the founding partners at CleverLight. His background in web design, web development, user experience and digital marketing gives him a unique insight to each client project.

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