On April 21, Google is launching an algorithm change that will primarily affect mobile search. There will be an emphasis on mobile-friendly sites; those that are not mobile-friendly will potentially see a large drop in their mobile search rankings (desktop searches won’t be affected at this time). The main reason behind this is to give users access to content that is not only relevant but is also designed with mobile in mind (fast page load times, accessible content, optimized text) for the best possible user experience.
So, what can you do if your site is not mobile-friendly already? Unfortunately, there aren’t any bandages or short-term tactics that will completely circumnavigate Google's upcoming changes. Google has been clear that mobile-friendly test results are black and white – meaning that your page is either mobile-friendly or it’s not. There’s no 40% or 80% mobile-friendly result possible; there is no gray area. If you have an m. version of your site (separate mobile site), it appears that it will be safe from the potential rank drop of mobile traffic. We can't be certain, however, until we see if there are changes in your mobile traffic or until Google releases more information on m. sites and their viability.
Our recommendation is to first evaluate whether your website is mobile-friendly, and then look at your analytics and evaluate the current state of your mobile traffic. Are your users visiting on mobile? Are they spending time on your site or leaving quickly? Are they not returning to visit because your site isn’t mobile-friendly? This is one step to determine how your site's traffic may be affected by Google's upcoming algorithm change.
Ultimately, planning a responsive redesign of your site is the best course of action, as this upcoming algorithm change will most likely be the first of many changes by Google to push the web forward to be more accessible and mobile-friendly. There has even been some speculation and testing that Google may add an indicator that lets you know whether your site is “slow” or “fast,” along with green and red color-coding. Imagine how that might affect your web traffic!
The bottom line: we’re here to help you understand and navigate the latest digital developments. Need help putting together an action plan to make your site responsive? Give us a shout at firstname.lastname@example.org.