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A blog about branding, marketing, and design, mostly through the lens of practical psychology, intended to be a resource to small businesses and entrepreneurs. Unless otherwise noted, all articles are written by Nyla Smith, owner of n-Vision Designs. {Subscribe to the RSS feed here: RSS}

Mobilegeddon. Is the sky falling?

Nyla Smith | Tuesday, April 28, 2015

man in panicGoogle is at it again. Just when you thought your website was safe, they decided to make changes! That's right! As of April 21st, Google has decided to start giving mobile-friendly websites higher search rankings.

News of this change prompted cries of "Mobilegeddon!" the world over, due to the widespread panic many website owners found themselves in, terrified that Google would suddenly squash them like a bug if their websites weren't up to par. To be clear, there is a catch — this change is intended to only affect mobile users' search results at this time. However, before you breath a sigh of relief, you should think about one thing: "How does this affect my web presence?"

When you develop a website for yourself or when you hire a professional to assist you, you should make sure that your website is mobile-optimized from the beginning. Many companies are now realizing how fast mobile marketing (searching online using mobile devices to find information or businesses) is growing! Customers can search for you in a matter of seconds. They can find out your location, contact information, more about the services or goods you provide, and what your reputation is like. If your website is not mobile-friendly, then you will likely now be beat out in search engine results by those that are, due to Google’s algorithm change.

While this is a major change and will have a huge impact on many websites, it is crucial to understand two important things.

  1. Making your site mobile will not automatically push you to the top of search engine results. A mobile-based website is still only one of MANY factors in Google’s algorithm.
  2. These results are going to be for search engines on mobile devices and will not likely affect desktop search results.

"What Do I Do?"

Now that you know how Google’s big change may impact your website, you may be wondering how you can make sure your website is mobile-friendly. Don't panic! The change will take a few days or weeks to make an impact. So, you have some time to improve things on the digital front. Feeling lost? You can check and see how Google currently sees your site. Visit the link below to see if your site is mobile-friendly.

https://www.google.com/webmasters/tools/mobile-friendly

Weigh your options, and make a plan.

If you’re not mobile-friendly, take the necessary steps to make it so. Make your site responsive (recommended, by both myself and Google). Responsive means your website will automatically adjust (respond) to the device that it is viewed on, whether desktop, tablet, or mobile.

If you are using a content management system (CMS) such as WordPress or something similar for your website, you should be able to change your theme easily, pick one that is responsive, or request the theme developer to do so.

If you are not able to easily change your theme (maybe it is custom), or you are not on WordPress or a similar CMS, hire a web developer to help you. This can make a world of difference in the long run. You can also create a separate mobile version of your site, but I recommend that be done only in certain cases. 

Avoid quick fixes.

There are “quick-fixes” out there that will claim to magically transform your site into mobile. For users of WordPress, there are plugins that will quickly create a mobile version of your website. These might seem ideal in a pinch, but I do not recommend this because quick fixes are usually not what is in the best interest of the business. These options will create a very generic mobile site that likely won't reflect your message or brand in the best manner. Your branding needs to be consistent across every marketing platform, both in print and online. Plus, you would end up with both a mobile website and a desktop website to manage. Who needs more headaches and time wasted than are necessary? Overall, it is important to weigh all of your options before you make any final decisions.

Focus on your users.

Google’s latest changes favor sites that put user experience first. This is no surprise. It’s part of how they measure what is deemed “most relevant” to searchers. So the best thing you can do to future-proof yourself against Google’s changes is to focus on creating a good user experience on your site. By providing quality content that is engaging and relevant to your audience, you can create a winning website! Keep in mind that the longer a guest stays on your site, the more important Google presumes your site is to search rankings.

Having clear and consistent navigation on your site makes sense and allows people to find what they are looking for. You also need an engaging homepage that people won't want to leave as soon as they land (high bounce rates will hurt you in search engine rankings). Google rewards websites who strive to provide good user experience; they don’t reward those who try to manipulate their rating system.

Optimize to stay ahead of the competition!

If your site is already mobile-friendly, this would be a good time to make sure it is really optimized for this purpose. Now that the rest of the world is making their websites mobile, you will face a lot more competition to have the best optimized site out there. Use Google’s Pagespeed tool to help you figure out where you can make improvements and help your mobile site load faster (a good thing for search results).

Don't let Google’s changes get you down! With the right tools, experience and know-how, you will be well on your way to a strong digital presence.

Nyla Smith is a Graphic Designer, Web Designer, Front-End Web Developer and Consultant with over 12 years of experience. She is the owner of n-Vision Designs, LLC in Hampton, Virginia, which exists to provide marketing support and brand consulting to small- and medium-sized businesses needing creative solutions. Contact Nyla if you'd like to discuss your next creative project. She can usually be bribed to a meeting with a cup of green tea and an oatmeal cookie.
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