Mobile Armageddon and Your SEO

It’s coming – not the zombie apocalypse, and not an astronomical extinction event, but rather the end of the your web site’s search presence. That is, unless your site is deemed mobile friendly by Google.

What Exactly is Mobilegeddon?

By April 21st, your site is supposed to be mobile-friendly. Sites that aren’t, are going to get trumped in search (all things being equal) by sites that are. This is due to an algorithm update by Google. The search engine titan wants to present searchers with a rich experience, and sites that aren’t mobile friendly undermine that experience.

We’ve seen a lot of non-events and hyped disasters. NYC and Los Angeles carmageddon fears comes to mind. But this one could be mildly unpleasant if your site registers poorly on the Mobilegeddon Test.

What it Means if Your Site isn’t Passing the “Mobile Friendly Test”

  1. Text too small to read: This may mean something as simple as your navigation links or footer text can’t be read without zooming. That’s an easy fix, unless test 3 is failing too, in which case that’s the main cause.
  2. Links too close together: Maybe you have one menu right above another, or your social buttons are too close together. Any situation where a fat finger might click two links/buttons at once is an issue. Again, it’s an easy fix, unless test 3 is failing too, in which case that’s the main cause.
  3. Mobile viewport not set: A mobile device can’t tell what size to *start* at for the site. This may be as simple as a missing line of code, which can be easily added. More likely, it means the site isn’t mobile responsive or adaptive. I’ll explain that better in a moment.
  4. Content wider than screen: Your website is bleeding off the edges of the screen. This usually happens when the mobile viewport isn’t set. The site isn’t scaling properly, so it appears too wide, or there’s just insufficient margin, and content is getting cut off. This can mean your site isn’t mobile responsive or adaptive.

Your Options for a Mobile Friendly Web Site

  1. Fully Responsive: You can see if your site is responsive by viewing it on a desktop computer and resizing your browser to be as narrow as a tablet, and as narrow as a phone. If your content doesn’t get cut off, but flows to fit the screen at any size, it’s fully responsive. This is a very contemporary way to design. It’s cost effective, because you only need to design one site that adjusts to any size device.
  2. Mobile Adaptive: Your site does get cut off if you resize the browser small enough, but it still looks great on a mobile device. That means your site is designed with a separate presentation/layout for various device widths (tablets, mini-tablets, phones, in landscape and portrait modes, etc). That’s fine, if that’s what you have.
  3. Separate Mobile Site: On a mobile device, your URL redirects to a mobile subdomain (e.g. m.yourdomain.com). That means you have a 2nd website, built expressly for mobile devices. It’s often a more costly or less efficient approach, because you have more than one site to update, but it works.
  4. Pinch and Zoom: Your site doesn’t get cut off in mobile; it works and the content is there, but you have to pinch and zoom to see it. Generally this is *not* a good mobile experience.

What You Can Do Immediately to Get Your Site Ready for Mobilegeddon

Let’s say you’ve run the test, and it’s failing. If it’s just text size and links too close together, make some updates to your site to enlarge the tiny text and/or space out your links better. If it’s that your site isn’t responsive, adaptive, or paired with a separate mobile site, there may still be some fast steps you can take:

  1. Consider switching themes. No need to build a new website. If your site is based on WordPress, Joomla, Drupal, or another widely used CMS, there are plenty of fully responsive themes available. $99 will usually get you a nice premium theme. You’ll need to flesh it out with your images and content, but a lot of that is likely already on your site.
  2. Consider dumping the site. If you’ve got a custom built HTML site that has no hope of being mobile friendly without a complete rebuild, and you’re not married to it anyway (it’s old, and not doing much for you), consider moving to Squarespace or Weebly. You can drag and drop a reasonably decent website into existence in a day’s effort.
  3. Create a Duda site. If your content is not extensive (e.g. a newspaper), and you don’t need ecommerce on it, or some other critical feature, you can quickly create a mobile version of your site at dudamobile.com. You’ll need to add a record at your domain registrar (where your dot com is registered) to use the m. on your domain for mobile, and add a simple snippet of code to your existing website to redirect for mobile, but you’ll have a mobile experience up and running in short order. Other such mobile conversion tools exist.
  4. Add a mobile plugin. If you’re using wordpress, or another open source CMS, and setting up a new theme is too much work, or you just need something instantly, you can be up and running in minutes with a plugin. WPtouch is a good example, and there’s also WordPress Mobile Pack. There are some other mobile plugins that can enhance the process, but the basic idea works right out of the box. You may have to check a box in your cache plugin, if you’re using one, to enable mobile support, though. If your cache conflicts with a mobile plugin, it may sometimes present the mobile version to desktop users, and vice versa.
  5. Live with it. It’s not the end of the world, it’s just mobilegeddon. Mobile is only one factor in ranking a website. So is fresh, original, substantive content (are you blogging frequently and thoughtfully)? If your site is thriving in other ways, such as a lot of social and referral traffic, and you can’t get to mobile friendly by April 21st, the game isn’t over. MadPipe’s clients can always learn something more about how to do better in search – it’s never all or nothing. That said, having a lot means more to lose. Keep doing the good stuff, but start planning a mobile solution. Likewise, if your site isn’t doing much for you anyway, there may not be much to lose. Google site:yourdomain.com to see what pages/posts show up in Google’s index. If it’s little or nothing, that may mean there’s little or nothing to lose at the moment, and that means you can take a more planned approach.

How Digital Strategy Can Help

Digital strategy is solving complex human problems by arranging technical pieces into a straightforward plan. When building a web site, for instance, there are choices to be made about platform, design schema, layout, content, and functionality. All of those choices have pros and cons, and strategy therefore aligns the result with your goals. Start thinking about:

  1. Moving to a sustainable platform, if you’re on a proprietary one that locks you in with little flexibility or control.
  2. Updating to a contemporary design: The modern website is often laid out like a storyboard. It’s rich in content, but spaces that content out, and removes barriers to getting at it.
  3. Having a responsive layout: By ensuring the presentation is effective on any screen size, and adjusts accordingly, you’re saving yourself (and visitors) headaches in the future.

For help planning and guiding your website project, get MadPipe involved early on. Your plan will have structure. Your dollars will be better spent. You’ll have someone watching out for you, before you sign onto something that leaves out important things or saddles you to an unsustainable future state. Don’t let your ‘tech guy(s)’ throw a lot of jargon at you without knowing what the impact will be for your business. Search engines are updating continually, and marketing is a moving playing field. Make sure your website will be effective for the long haul.

Daniel DiGriz

Daniel DiGriz is a corporate storyteller and Digital Ecologist® at MadPipe, which provides creative direction, marketing leadership in marketing, and campaign direction for firms that want a stronger connection with their audience. A Digital Ecologist® applies strategic principles from both natural and digital ecologies to help organizations thrive across multiple ecosystems. Daniel hosts podcasts, speaks at conferences, and his ideas have appeared in Inc, SmartBlog, MediaPost, Forbes, and Success Magazine.
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