For the first time, Google has announced its latest algorithm update well in advance of the release date; a change in behaviour which emphasises the importance and potential impact of this change.
In December 2014 there were rumours within the industry that Google could move to rolling algorithm adjustments whenever they released an update to Penguin; the idea being that they would not publish and confirm release dates and instead there would be a constant stream of updates and adjustments without a specific release. However, Google have put paid to the rumours by announcing 21st April 2015 as the date they will be releasing a new algorithm update specifically targeting a site’s mobile friendliness.
Google has a very user-centric focus, meaning the user’s experience is of paramount importance, and the mobile experience in particular has been under scrutiny for some time. Mobile devices have a proven track record as a key part of the user journey and more than 50% of web browsing now comes from mobile devices. Whether people are researching a product or content/news snacking during their work breaks or while in front of the TV, mobile is here to stay.
This is why Google is working with Webmasters to help improve mobile friendliness and overall user experience. Google’s mobile evolution to date has provided us with:
- Mobile ranking factor tests
- Mobile friendly labels
- Mobile testing tool
- Mobile usability error reports
This is important for retailers because website suitability for mobile users is going to have a direct impact on rankings, which will mean that any efforts to improve search visibility will be impeded if a site is not mobile friendly.
How will websites be ranked?
Websites will be affected on a page-by-page basis. If one page of a website is responsive or classed as mobile friendly then it will see the benefit of this update, but none of the other pages on the site will be affected.
Google will rank pages based on the last time they were indexed. Once optimisation has been carried out the site will not see the benefit of the update until it has been re-indexed by Google. Google Webmaster Tools can be used to ‘fetch & render’ newly optimised pages which will hint to Google that the site needs to be re-indexed.
How big will the impact be?
At the moment this is unknown, but what we do know is it is expected to be bigger than the Penguin and Panda updates. According to Barry Schwartz of Search Engine Roundtable:
“Google won’t say exactly how significant. They normally do share that data. With Panda algorithm updates, often they will say it impacted the search results by X percent. Panda algorithm updates have impacted the search queries up to about 13% or so, whereas Penguin was more like 4% max I believe”
A key question that retailers should be asking themselves is how much they rely on mobile traffic in the customer journey. If mobile traffic is heavily relied on and the site is not already optimised then an action plan of quick wins and long-term strategies is needed.
Tips for retailers
At Summit our teams are busy preparing for the update and ensuring our clients’ websites are fully optimised; here are some of the ways you can ensure you are ready:
- Make sure you are prepared before the release date of 21st April 2015
- Test your pages with the above testing tool provided by Google
- Run your competitors’ sites through the tool to see who might benefit over you
- Check Google Webmaster Tools for any ‘Mobile Usability Error Reports’
Resolve issues in the report
- If your site is not already mobile optimised, create a plan of action including:
Quick wins and short term fixes
- Monitor your mobile performance by carrying out:
Post-algorithm benchmarking and performance reviews
If you need help formulating a plan, require some consultancy or are looking to create a new website please contact Chris Dickson on 0203 428 5300.