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April 21st looms: Get your website mobile-friendly or risk Google penalisation

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13th Apr 2015
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Mobile has long been recognised as the most important channel for businesses to get right – so much so that some marketing experts are becoming exasperated at the thought of even discussing things as being ‘mobile’ anymore.

And while the importance of being mobile has at no point diminished since the advent of the smartphone many moons ago, from an SEO point-of-view, the incentives for businesses to make their websites mobile-responsive have never been broadcast as an imperative. Until now.

Google updates are usually waited on with bated breath, and February’s announcement on the Webmaster central blog was no different:

“Starting April 21, we will be expanding our use of mobile-friendliness as a ranking signal. This change will affect mobile searches in all languages worldwide and will have a significant impact in our search results. Consequently, users will find it easier to get relevant, high quality search results that are optimized for their devices.”

What this means? While mobile-friendliness has been ranked favourably by Google for almost two years, now any website that isn’t mobile friendly will be viewed by the search engine giant’s ranking algorithm as highly negative.  

Google has been reported as saying the changes will have an even bigger impact on search than its past Panda and Penguin algorithm updates. The Penguin update affected about 4% of global searches, and Panda impacted about 12% of English-language searches, according to Search Engine Land.

With just a week until the changes take effect, the good news is, there are relatively quick and easy ways to assess how Googlebot views your pages and avoiding being killed by what CIO has dubbed ‘mobilegeddon’:

  • If you want to test a few pages, you can use the Mobile-Friendly Test.
  • If you have a site, you can use your Webmaster Tools account to get a full list of mobile usability issues across your site using the Mobile Usability Report.

However, if you find your site has elements that aren’t mobile-friendly, it might be time to speak to your web developer about the best route towards becoming ‘built for mobile’; or at the very least making your website(s) mobile responsive.   

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