Everyone has heard the term, “Elephant in the room”. Let’s be clear, Google is that elephant! On February 26, 2015, Google did something it had never done before. It told the world what it was about to do. You see, Google is just like you and most other car dealers in that it is never satisfied with just being successful. Rather, it is always in constant change, looking for ways to improve its product or service.
Google falls under constant scrutiny, some would say rightfully so. First, there is no other company in the world that has as much personal, private information on its users as Google. If you search for it, they know it, track it, and recent revelations have proven they share it, at least with the Government, anyway. Before that, it was the telephone companies who might have been considered the powerhouse of personal data, but all they really have on you is who you call, who calls you and how long those calls last. If you Google a health issue, a business item, anything you want to keep private, Google knows all the details from not just your search content, but also what sites you turned to for an answer. It would be the same as if the phone company recorded the actual conversations as opposed to just the call details.
Google also endures constant criticism of antitrust violations. Just recently, the European Union formally accused Google of abusing its dominance in web searches. In short, Google knows it gets the lion’s share of searchers visiting their site and they are constantly looking to cash in on that dominance. If they offer wireless phone service for instance, and you were to search for a new wireless carrier, who do you think will get the first search result on Google?
No matter your opinion of Google, good, bad or indifferent, we are all still forced to contend with the “Elephant in the Room”, which leads me to its ground breaking announcement this past February. Up to that point, when it made changes to its formula for who will show up as a search result when you search for answers on its site, those changes were at best only eluded to and those changes would occur without anyone knowing when they happened. This spawned an entire industry of Search Engine Optimization companies who monitor search result trends and would only find out about these changes well after they were made. Google has always kept its updates secret because they know there are many out there who would exploit these changes in order to gain an unfair advantage over their competitors.
All that changed when Google announced that on April 21, 2015, it would change its search result algorithm to favor websites “with a mobile-friendly experience”. For the first time it not only gave details on the change it was making but it also gave a date as to when this change would take place. That was significant, to say the least, and got the attention of many SEO companies and website owners all around the world. What is a “mobile-friendly experience”? In short, they are now ranking sites based on the experience one gets when they visit the site from a mobile phone or tablet. In recent years, the use of these devices has sky-rocketed and for that reason, Google feels like if your website can easily be viewed and navigated from a mobile device and the guy down the street has a website that is not as mobile friendly as yours, you will get more traffic than before and the other guy will get less. What this means for you is that you now need to know how your site is seen when visited from a phone or tablet. Does the font appear large enough without having to magnify the screen? Does the page have to be scrolled left and right as well as up and down in order to see it? Are the navigation buttons and links easy to use? Are the forms easy to fill out and submit? If you visit your site and have any of these issues, you should contact your webmaster right away. It won’t be the end of the world if you spot any of these issues on your site, but it could mean a slowdown in traffic.
Google provides an easy way for you to see what they see in regards to how mobile friendly your site is. Go to http://www.google.com/webmasters/tools/mobile-friendly/ and you will see a box for you to enter your website address. Once you submit the form it will either tell you your site is fine and you have nothing to worry about or it will tell you what items about your website need to be fixed in order to be considered mobile friendly.
One last note, a few articles ago I detailed two solutions to creating a mobile friendly site. One was to add a second website, one that usually ends in .mobi. The other was something called Responsive web design. It is important to note Google does not prefer one solution over the other. Both solutions address the size, screen resolution, and navigation issues that Google is looking at to judge just how friendly your site is for mobile users. I have seen some of our competitors make one of two mistakes when they promote their mobile friendly sites.
The first mistake we see is that the provider will include a .mobi design but they provide the exact same design for all their clients. A .mobi is a stripped down version of your .com site, and should therefore include your logo, your color scheme, etc. Instead, they provide one .mobi design with the same red background and a stock picture of a Camaro. Branding is still important, no matter what device your client uses to view your site. The other mistake we often hear is that a provider who can offer a Responsive site will try to steer you in that direction as an upsell by telling you Google prefers that solution over the other. If you Google that, you will find that is not true. Be sure the solution you choose is the best fit for your advertising approach.