Are you ready for Google’s next search algorithm update?

If your website isn’t responsive or optimized for mobile devices, you should be worried. Why? Because as of April 21st, Google will expand the use of mobile-friendliness as a ranking signal in search results. Websites that are optimized for mobile devices will receive the highest SEO rankings, and the rest will be penalized in rankings which will result in a decline in organic search traffic.

For most organizations, between 30% and 50% of website traffic comes from mobile devices, making this is a pretty big deal if your site falls into the “not optimized” category. Thanks Google. Now what?

“Google recommends webmasters follow the industry best practice of using responsive web design, namely serving the same HTML for all devices.”

First things first, determine if your Website is currently mobile optimized and see whether or not the mobile settings have been properly configured. Google provides this handy tool to help : https://www.google.com/webmasters/tools/mobile-friendly. Simply plug in your website address, and let Google tell you the good (or bad) news.

mobile-friendly-test

Dedicated Mobile Site

If you have a dedicated mobile website, for example: m.yourdomain.org, but Googlebot is not recognizing your site as mobile friendly, you’ll need to take a couple of steps to ensure your SEO is not impacted.
not-mobile-friendly
First, you must annotate both your desktop and mobile URLs with the proper canonical and alternate tags to tell Google which is preferred version of the page and which page is the alternate content. If you skip this step, Google will penalize your site for duplicate content in addition to penalizing you for your site not being mobile friendly.

Example of link attribute set up:

On the desktop page (http://www.example.com/page-1), add:

<link href="http://m.example.com/page-1" rel="alternate" media="only screen and (mad-width: 640px)" />

and on the mobile page (http://m.example.com/page-1), the required annotation should be:

<link href="http://www.example.com/page-1" rel="canonical" />

This rel=”canonical” tag on the mobile URL pointing to the desktop page is required.

Once you have updated your pages, you also need to update your site map with the appropriate media query and alternate link information as shown here:

 <?xml version="1.0" encoding="UTF-8"?>
 <urlset xmlns="http://www.sitemaps.org/schemas/sitemap/0.9"
         xmlns:xhtml="http://www.w3.org/1999/xhtml">
 <url>
 <loc>http://www.example.com/page-1</loc>
 <xhtml: link
    rel="alternate"
    media="only screen and (max-width:640px)"
    href="http://m.example.com/page-1 "/>
</url>
</urlset>

Google put together a document that walks through this process with even more detail and will take you step by step on how to signal your configuration to search engines.

If your website isn’t mobile-friendly, don’t panic! Consider a responsive retrofit.

Restyling your existing site to take advantage of responsive design best practices is a good option for organizations that don’t have a website redesign in the near future. While there are some caveats as to whether this tactic is appropriate for your organization, it can be a good and affordable stopgap measure in between a redesign to a fully responsive website. My colleague, Tim Arnold, is a great source of info about responsive design if you’d like to learn more.

Your transition to a mobile friendly site will not only ensure you are found in search results, but it will also help your users reach their goals, whether they are on mobile or desktop devices. As always, if you need help updating your link tags or would like assistance with a responsive retrofit, Beaconfire is here to help.


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