The Google mobile algorithm update – are you ready for it?

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Are you fully mobile optimised? Well you probably should be.

But just in case you needed any more convincing about whether to invest in a fully mobile optimised website, Google has probably just done it for you.

As announced earlier in the year, Google will this week change its search algorithm for mobile to favour sites that are “mobile friendly”, while penalising sites that fail to meet its criteria.

Experts in search engine optimisation have dubbed the shift “Mobilegeddon”, predicting that companies unprepared for the change will see their search rankings on mobile plummet.

As people rarely browse beyond the first page of Google’s search results, any change in search ranking could be hugely costly for businesses and the algorithm change is expected to sway where millions of people shop, eat, and find information worldwide.

According to experts, some of the companies expected to suffer include big brands such as Versace and Microsoft’s Windows Phone.

In an ironic twist of fate, another company whose site fails to meet Google’s new mobile requirements is the EU, whose Europa website is not considered “mobile friendly”. Last week the EU brought formal antitrust charges against Google over its abuse of market position.

The algorithm change won’t affect search results on tablets or desktop computers. But as mobile now accounts for around half of all searches on Google, companies will notice the consequences.

Google regularly updates its search algorithms and any changes are keenly felt by businesses that fail to adapt to the new requirements.

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In addition to the above mobile search overhaul, there is the possibility that Google will also base future desktop search rankings on factual accuracy. A report, courtesy of NewScientist, surfaced on 28 February regarding Google’s future plans. The detailed essay Knowledge-Based Trust: Estimating the Trustworthiness of Web Sources proposes that websites could eventually be ranked based on the quality of facts, rather than links.

While the internet is a great source of information we also know it’s full of complete nonsense too. We’ve all seen or read something online and thought “that’s so not true” and fought with friends over the accuracy of the “fact”. Thankfully Google may soon be able to help us tell the truth from the lies.

But one thing is certainly true: mobile optimisation is no longer something companies can afford to ignore.

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Mobile optimisation – the forgotten art in digital marketing?

With social media still the buzzword du jour among digital marketers, there appears to be one area of digital marketing that has been badly neglected: mobile optimisation.

Mobile optimisation simply refers to the conversion of a ‘desktop’ website into a format that can be read easily on any mobile device. It eliminates the need for zooming on phones; gives easy access to contact information; and easy navigation to minimise hitting the wrong link. With so much online activity now taking place through mobile, one would think a mobile-optimised website would be the first digital-related decision a company would make. But that’s certainly not the case.

A recent report by the marketing agency Add People has revealed that almost 80pc of Irish SMEs have websites that are not optimised for mobile browsing. The findings are deeply worrying considering analysts at Morgan Stanley predict that by 2015 more people will be browsing the internet via mobile devices than on a PC or laptop.

Reiterating the significance of a well-optimised mobile website, a study from Google entitled What Users Want Most From Mobile Sites Today, found that 67% of respondents were more likely to buy from a mobile-friendly website, whilst 50% of respondents said that even if they liked a business they would use it less often if its website wasn’t mobile-friendly. Google also found that almost half of web users feel frustrated when they visit a site that’s not mobile-friendly and that the same number of users feel like a company doesn’t care about their business if a site doesn’t function well on their smartphone.

On foot of this, Google has publicly stated that a mobile-friendly website will rank higher in users’ mobile searches and fully endorses responsive web design as a best practice solution. As a result, it’s imperative that Irish companies implement mobile optimisation as soon as possible to better engage with mobile browsers: in order to retain customers and boost their Google mobile search ranking.

With so much web activity now taking place through mobile, it should be a given that every company has a fully functional, mobile-optimised site. Indeed, we may one day get to the point where every company starts with a mobile-centred website and then develops a ‘desktop’ version as a mere afterthought. But we’re a long way from there for now…