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/.

 

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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.

I recently launched a fashion blog, http://sociologyofstyle.com. We’re starting to see some good improvement in our search results position and therefore more organic search traffic.

The chart shows how we’re doing with ALL of the keywords we’ve been associated with. We’re doing even better with the specific keywords we’ve targeted.

We’ve managed to achieve a PageRank of 4 in the short 3 months we’ve been live, for what it’s worth. 

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.

SEO Checklist

Short list of things to do for SEO

Content

  1. Provide content, not just links, not just images.
  2. Use meta-data to describe your site and content.
  3. Check for broken links and correct HTML.
  4. Fill in “alt” in your image tags.

Backend

https://www.google.com/webmasters/tools/dashboard – submit/verify your website, create a sitemap

Completing these steps will make sure you get listed on search engines and prepare you for the next steps – marketing and building links.

See Vaughns Google search engine SERP Ranking Factors SEO Checklist for a much more detailed and comprehensive list than what I have here.
Vaughn also lists things to avoid.  Which is just as, if not more, important than things to do.

Twitter

I’ve been twittering or tweeting or twitting. . . using Twitter for a while now.  It’s a great tool to listen in on conversations and get the pulse of what’s going.

I use it to communicate to my clients and to follow the communications of people I’m interested in.  I see great potential in use Twitter as a marketing tool.  As we get ready to launch Parentville.com, Twitter will be a channel to communicate the launch and happenings.  I follow @pleasedressme as they developed their site and eagerly waited for their launch.  I was informed of new updates to their index.  Great job guys!

Brian Solis has a great primer on what twitter is and related services and tools.

Sign up for your own account and follow me on twitter at @lmai to see what’s going on in my head.

There are no SEO secrets or shortcuts

I have talked to many small business and website owners who set up a website and wonder why their site is buried several pages deep on search result pages.  They expect someone to get them listed at the top of natural search results within a week.  That might have been possible a few years ago, but not anymore.

Search engines are smart.  They know when you’re trying to dupe them and they don’t like it.  Google has a habit of penalizing websites that break their rules.  They are aware of the link building sites and services.

You business was probably not an overnight success.  You had to market your business and build a customer base.  It’s the same with SEO  – to be listed on page one of search results takes some time and a little effort.