On April 21st, Google rolled out an important change to the algorithm it uses to rank web pages in search results. Does that mean small businesses need to panic and completely overhaul their sites to respond to the change? Absolutely not! By following the advice I give in this post, you can increase your brand's appeal to mobile users and stay in Google's good books.
Google has made two major changes that should attract the attention of small businesses. First, the new algorithm places more importance on sites being mobile-friendly. Second, when users conduct a search using their mobile device, information from their apps will be used to rank the results. This second change is known as app indexing.
What Does It Mean to Have a Mobile-Friendly Site?
Mobile-friendly sites allow mobile users to quickly and easily find the information they need. Their pages load quickly, even when using cellular networks rather than Wi-Fi. Every element of the page displays correctly and at an appropriate size for a mobile screen, without the user needing to do a lot of zooming and scrolling to find the information they need.
Mobile-friendly e-commerce sites make the buying process as easy as possible for mobile customers. Mobile users often aren't willing to fill out multiple information fields with their name, address, card number, and so on. Integrating a rapid payment option, such as PayPal or Google Wallet, could drastically increase your online sales.
How to Create a Mobile-Friendly Site
Responsive design is one method of creating a mobile-friendly site. This kind of site displays differently depending on the type of device that is used to access it. If you're building a small business website from scratch, then I would recommend trying to implement some key principles of responsive design, so that all users can enjoy the same site. When you update your site, you'll only need to make the changes once to allow all customers to see them.
If your site doesn't use responsive design and you hate the idea of starting over, then don't panic. Responsive design isn't the only way to cater to mobile users. Many big brands, including Amazon, eBay, and even Google, instead direct their mobile customers to dedicated mobile versions of their sites. You can build a stripped-down version of your site on a separate subdomain (m.domain.com). Mobile customers can use this site, while your other customers continue to use the familiar desktop site.
What About App Indexing?
You might have read apocalyptic blog posts suggesting that businesses without mobile apps are finished since April 21st. I'm not going to try to push you into a panic by making such a ridiculous claim, but Google has opened up an important opportunity for small business owners who are considering introducing a mobile app for their brand.
Google now indexes content inside mobile apps, as well as the content on websites. Google then uses this app content to rank search results for mobile users. As a result, a content-rich app can improve the ranking of your brand's website, therefore increasing the amount of search traffic you receive.
Key Takeaways for Small Businesses
Small businesses respond to Google's latest update in the following ways:
- Don't panic – most of Google's ranking factors remain the same.
- Focus on improving the experience of mobile visitors to your site.
- Consider creating a mobile app, or adding content to an existing app.
Was it Really Mobilegeddon?
Although there have been a lot of scare stories about Google's latest algorithm change, most sites have seen only a small changes in their rankings as a result. There is clearly no need for small businesses to panic. Instead, take this shift in Google's algorithm as a sign that mobile is becoming increasingly important and design your long-term strategy to include mobile users.