April 21st, 2015 – The Mobile Apocalypse?

Remember the upheaval caused by Google’s Panda or Penguin algorithm updates?  Zineb Ait Bahajji, a member of Google’s Webmaster Trends team, said at SMX Munich that the latest algorithm change will have even more impact on search rankings than either Panda or Penguin ever had.

What is this new algorithm?

At the end of February, Google executives made a big announcement about the next algorithm change that will affect search engine rankings starting on April 21st. “We will be expanding our use of mobile-friendliness as a ranking signal,” Google announced. They added, “This change will affect mobile searches in all languages worldwide and will have a significant impact in our search results.”

What does this mean?

First, a business that does not have a dedicated mobile site, mobile app, or mobile-responsive web design will lose its current ranking, potentially falling to virtual obscurity.

Second, “Worldwide” means that the algorithm update affects mobile searchers and search results in all countries at the same time, rather than just rolling out in the U.S. first.

Third, the mobile-friendly update affects mobile search results – i.e., searches from smartphones’ and tablets – not searches conducted on a desktop or laptop computer.

In late March, during a Google+ Hangout titled ‘Q&A session for mobile-friendly ranking change’, Google’s staff claimed the following:

  1. It will take a week rollout the algorithm.
  2. You are either mobile-friendly or not – there will be no “degrees of mobile-friendliness” in this algorithm.
  3. It will be on a page-by-page basis. Therefore, if mobile usability issues affect only a few pages, you should not receive a site-wide penalty. This also means you do not have to worry about making your site 100% mobile-friendly by the April 21st deadline. You may decide to prioritize the optimization of problem pages based on their importance or existing search visibility.
  4. It will be on real-time basis. This means Google will take into account changes to your website as soon as it crawls the modified page. It does not mean you will instantly receive better rankings if you make recommended improvements. If it typically takes a long time for Google to crawl your site, you need to work even faster to ensure your site is ready in time.

Why is Google rolling out the new algorithm?

According to a Google survey, 94 per cent of people use a mobile phone to get local information and the vast majority of those searches take place at home or at work, despite it being likely the person searching could do so on a desktop computer.

According to the survey, 73 percent of web users prefer mobile-friendly websites and 61 percent leave a site if it is not mobile-friendly. 73 percent of mobile searches trigger a call or a visit to a business.

How do you find out if your site is mobile friendly?

The quickest way to check if Google considers a page to be, mobile-friendly is to use Google’s Mobile-Friendly Test tool which is found at https://www.google.com/webmasters/tools/mobile-friendly/.

 

Awesome with border
Figure 1- Mobile Test

If found mobile-friendly, the page will appear in Google’s mobile search results with a mobile-friendly label, and receive a ranking boost. Above is www.mysitevitals.com‘s mobile friendly test pass.

The Mobile-Friendly Test tool is great for quick checks. However, for an in-depth, whole-site review, you will need to have Google Webmaster Tools set up.

Within Webmaster Tools, you will find the mobile usability report. This scans your website for usability errors, and then presents all the problems found, along with the number of pages affected.

What do you do if your site is not mobile friendly?

If your site is already mobile-friendly, you will not have much to worry about. However, if you have not yet implemented a mobile strategy for your online presence, Google has a guide to creating mobile-friendly sites.

Disclaimer: shameless plug on the way :).  When we were creating MySiteVitals, we had the mobile user in mind.  I’ve had a lot – and I mean a lot – of people tell me that if there were a better way to view their analytics quickly and on the go, that they would be much more inclined to use Google Analytics.  GA is great, as long as you are viewing it from a desktop and are highly proficient with the software.  But for the average website owner, it’s not very practical.  MySiteVitals delivers the most essential stats on your website or app in an easy to read report each morning.  Leveraging analytics is vital to the success of any website; don’t let the hassle of using Google Analytics get in your way.  Sign up with MySiteVitals and see how simple it really is.

It's official: Keywords Meta Tag are ignored by Google

I get a lot of request from clients and prospective clients about how to improve your organic search rankings.

They want to know how to tag their pages – title, description, keywords etc. so they can achieve first page status.

Where here it is from Google on their official webmaster blog, “Google does not use the keywords meta tag in web ranking

I think Google also discounts the description tag and uses only the title and content.
Basically, don’t worry about how to tag your page, worry about the content.

You should think about keyword placement and clustering, but top priority is fresh, readable, and useful content. Fresh so that Google crawlers and visitors will come back and find something new.  Readable and useful because crap won’t be linked.

We knew this day would come

Google Voice released a great new feature today, sms-to-email for notification and reply, effectively shutting down GoogSMS.

We knew this day would come, but it came a lot earlier than most expected.

So we’ll be deleting all the data and shutting down the service soon.

I will release an abridged version of the source code for Prowl notification that you can run it off your own server.

Thanks to all the beta testers and early adopters.

Why doesn't anyone respond? Metrics from GoogSMS

Here are some interesting metrics about GoogSMS‘s first week since it’s launch on Sept 1, 2009.

There are over 30 active users.  Thanks to all the early adopters.
There have been over 2,500 messages forwarded.
Only 150 replies to the messages forwarded.

I would assume that most people would reply to their SMS.  This leads me to believe that we need to educate our users about the ability to reply.

To that note
1.  We’ve simplified the response process for Prowl users with a link in the Prowl notification. See blog post.
2.  Added some bold text to the email message “Did you know” to draw attention to the fact that you can reply via email.

We have just gotten started with GoogSMS.  So much great feedback from our vocal users.  We hear you and are working hard to build the best product possible.

Reply to Google Voice SMS for Prowl users

Prowl notifications from GoogSMS now include a email link to send a response to the SMS received.

This will open the iPhone mail app with address pre-populated.  Just type your response in the body of the message and send.

Prowl Reply Link Shortcut

For both non-Prowl and Prowl users: you can also send a reply by replying to the email notification.

Oddness in Google Voice display

I may have found/stumbled upon a display bug in Google Voice.

If a msg thread exists before midnight, and a new message is added to the thread after midnight, the date of the old msgs is incorrectly set to the new day.  Since the msgs themselves don’t have a date display, only a timestamp, this can lead to issues when determining if a message is new or old.

bug in google voice

This message thread was started on 9/5 at 11:17pm.
As I sent a few messages after midnight, the date (second line of the image) changed to 9/6.  The intial messages sent prior to midnight now are associated with 9/6 instead of 9/5.

While this is not a big issue for google voice website users, it could cause a problem for html scrapers of the website.

Not to worry, Googsms has a fix for it.

Using the alternative email for GoogSMS

In your profile on GoogSMS, you can enter an alternative email address.

GoogSMS profile

If this is populated, all communication with GoogSMS will be sent to this email.  Your email notifications will be sent here and you can reply and send SMS from this address.

I use this on my iPhone to handle all my SMS.  I turn on the iPhone push notification so I get push alerts.
This also separates all my SMS from email.
This is also helpful it the email associated with your google voice number isn’t your primary email.

Let me know if you find this useful.

How to set up Google Voice SMS push notification to iPhone via Prowl

Here is a step by step on how to set up Google Voice SMS push notification to your iPhone using Prowl and GoogSMS.com

1. Sign up for Prowl
2. Generate an API Key from the Prowl Settings Page

3.  Download Prowl from the app store ($2.99)
4.  Login to your account on GoogSMS and add your API key to your profile

GoogSMS profile

That’s it.  You will get a Prowl notification of your next SMS.  It should also show up in your inbox.
Don’t forget, you can reply to the SMS via the email.

* Some notes
– Prowl costs $2.99.  However it can we used for many other services yet to be written.
– There is a redirect feature for Prowl to open up the mail app on the iphone when you view the notification.  It takes you to a blank mail instead of your message.  It’s a limitation of Prowl.
Sept 9, 2009 – We have implemented a new link in the prowl notification for easy response.  See blog post