Ever wonder how search engines decide which site to put first when returning search results? Search engines like Google send out bots which visit the pages in a website. The information they are looking for is part of an algorithm which follows a series of steps to rank websites.
Can I See Google’s Algorithms?
Algorithms are proprietary – each search engine has their own and they are kept secret. Information about the algorithm is sometimes released in very general terms by the search engine company, but more often changes to the algorithm are only detected by what happens after it goes into effect.
Google’s last big algorithm change – called Penguin – caused many websites to drop in search rankings, resulting a drastic drop in visits to their site. Penguin penalized users who used “blatant search engine optimization tactics” (Fast Company) like keyword stuffing and duplicate content.
What Do We Know About Google’s Algorithm Change?
The latest algorithm change, code-named Pigeon, actually went into effect in July 2014, and added a mobile-friendly tag to results when users searched from mobile devices. The new change (which will happen at the end of April) looks at the pages in your website to determine how mobile-friendly each page is. The pages that are deemed mobile-friendly will get a higher priority when users search from mobile devices.
For example, if there are two pizza places in my town and one has a mobile-friendly site, while the other doesn’t, the mobile-friendly site will show up first when I search for pizza in my town.
What Can I Do To Prepare?
1. Make sure you have a functional mobile-friendly website.
You site looks different on different devices – what you see on a large desktop screen will look different on a smaller screen and even more different on a tablet or smartphone. Having a mobile-friendly site means adding code that kicks in and changes how your website looks and behaves at different screen sizes. While your menus work fine if you have a mouse, can smartphone users easily use your menus? Does your site appear so small as to be unreadable on a smartphone? Or does the user have to scroll left and right to see all of the content?
2. Test Your Site
Google has two tools that you can use to assess the mobile-friendliness of your site: Mobile Friendliness Test and Google’s Mobile Usability Report. According to Business2Community.com, “It is worth noting that Google hasn’t said what will change in their requirements on April 21st, but these tests are a great start to see if your website meets the basic standards for a mobile optimized website.”
3. Analyze Your Customer’s Behaviour
Your customers are usually searching for different information when using a mobile device than they would on their desktop. Mobile device users are more likely to be looking for a quick answer such as a location, business hours or phone number. If you are a brick and mortar business, make sure your address and phone number appears front and center on your mobile-optimized site with a link to Google Maps.