Wednesday, April 22, 2015

On the Mis-Named Mobilegeddon

If you are a web pro then it is likely that you heard that Google's search results were going to change based on how mobile-friendly a site is (you probably heard a couple months ago even). This change took effect yesterday.

As with almost all things in the tech world that affect clients, the press hit yesterday as well, and today clients are looking for more information. Conveniently, our clients are golden as we went all-responsive years ago.

If you already built sites to be responsive, ideally mobile-first, then you needn't worry. Your clients have probably already noticed that the text "mobile-friendly" appears in front of the results for their sites in Google and have been comforted as a result.

If you have not built sites to be responsive, or have had no mobile strategy whatsoever, then you may be among those calling it, or seeing it referred to as, mobilegeddon. A terrible name that clearly comes from FUD (Fear, Uncertainty and Doubt).

If you are someone who relies on a firm to build and/or manage your site, then you should also beware the SEO snake oil salesman who may knock on your door and build on that very FUD to sell you things you don't need.

From Google Webmaster Central

For that latter two cases, I have pulled the first three points from Google's notes on the mobile-friendly (a much better term) update. I recommend reading the whole thing, of course.

1. Will desktop and/or tablet ranking also be affected by this change?

No, this update has no effect on searches from tablets or desktops. It affects searches from mobile devices across all languages and locations.

2. Is it a page-level or site-level mobile ranking boost?

It’s a page-level change. For instance, if ten of your site’s pages are mobile-friendly, but the rest of your pages aren’t, only the ten mobile-friendly pages can be positively impacted.

3. How do I know if Google thinks a page on my site is mobile-friendly?

Individual pages can be tested for “mobile-friendliness” using the Mobile-Friendly Test.

From Aaron Gustafson

Aaron Gustafson put together a simple list of four things you as a web developer can do to mitigate the effects of Google's changes, though the simplicity belies the depth of effort that may be needed for some sites. I've collected the list, but his post has the details for how to approach each step:

  1. Embrace mobile-first CSS
  2. Focus on key tasks
  3. Get smarter about images
  4. Embrace the continuum

What Is Your Mobile Traffic?

I've been asked how to find out how much traffic to a site is from mobile users. In Google Analytics this is pretty easy:

  1. Choose Audience from the left menu.
  2. Choose Mobile once Audience has expanded.

Bear in mind that this just tells you where you are today. If that number drops then it may be a sign that your mobile strategy isn't working. At the same time, if that number is already low then it may not drop any further owing to unintentional selection bias in how your pages are coded.

Oh, By the Way

Google isn't the only search engine. When I mentioned that on this blog before, Google had 66.4% of the U.S. search market. As of January 2015, that's down to 64.4%. Bing is up from 15.9% to 19.7%.

Google Sites led the U.S. explicit core search market in January with 64.4 percent market share, followed by Microsoft Sites with 19.7 percent and Yahoo Sites with 13.0 percent (up 1.0 percentage point). Ask Network accounted for 1.8 percent of explicit core searches, followed by AOL, Inc. with 1.1 percent.

While I Have Your Attention

Two days after the initial announcement of this change, word also came that Google is working on a method to rank pages not by inbound links, but by trustworthiness, in essence by facts.

When this finally hits, pay attention to those who refer to the change as Truthigeddon. Be wary of them.

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