Google Decides, Time to Commit to Mobile First

On Tuesday April 21st, 2015, we are all moving to a mobile first world, whether you like it or not. The world's largest search engine, Google, is making a major update to its mobile search algorithm that will change the order in which websites are ranked when users search for something from their phone or tablet. Yes, your Google results will change, favoring those sites that have optimized for mobile experiences.

The algorithm will start favoring mobile-friendly websites (ones with large text, easy-to-click links, and automatically re-size to fit whatever screen they’re viewed on) and ranking them higher in search. Websites that aren’t mobile-friendly will get demoted. Is your business Mobile Ready? Tomorrow? A few features of a mobile-optimized website are:

  • It’s smaller
  • Has less detailed text-blocks and focuses more on key points
  • Has larger navigation buttons
  • Fewer graphics
  • Includes a phone number that starts a call when clicked on

Globally, about 60% of all online traffic now comes from mobile gadgets, and Google wants users to have a good experience whenever they click on a mobile link. Despite years of warning, poor NPS and with customers turning away, a huge number of businesses and sites haven't prepared themselves. Google is now forcing their hand, and I like it.

You see far too many companies are ignorant to the ways of the digital world, including large multi-nationals. They chose to ignore all the signs, and shy away from investments in preparing their digital presence for moments like this. As a thought leader, author, and consultant in the space for the best part of decade, I see this as a positive step forward, creating a catalyst to drag dinosaurs into the modern era.

The cheeky side of me has to admit, it's also great for my business, as dozens of companies seek guidance through the transition. All those dollar companies currently invested in Adwords will decrease in impact until they can improve their mobile presence.

If you’ve already browsed the web through a mobile device, you know how difficult it can be to navigate through a non-mobile optimized website. Many mobile users leave a website if it isn’t optimized, and never return. That is why it’s so important that you have a mobile-optimized website for the people that visit your website through their mobile.

So what are my top three tips for dealing with Google's change? Luckily I have three chapters in my book, Mobile Ready, which deal with this scenario:

  1. Provide Personal Context: The key to success on mobile is real-time tailoring the presented experience to the unique aspects of that user, and that moment. Start to plan how and where a user is when they engage your site via mobile.
  2. Avoid Building Online Mimics: You may have spent hundreds of thousands of dollars on the design of your online presence, but copying it and squeezing it into a smaller screen won't work. You'll need to rethink the elements that go into the site's design.
  3. Make Decisions by the Numbers: Analytics are powerful tools when used effectively. Find out if your web team already uses such tools. Then use that to observe and understand how your users are moving through your site. The results might surprise you.

It seems that 2015 is the year of Mobile First, as Google's shows us all. It pays to think mobile first.