Was Your Site Hit By Google's New Mobile-Friendly Algorithm? Use This Quick Guide to Recover and Prepare for the Future of Mobile Search

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Last month, Google updated its algorithm to make its search results friendlier to smartphone users.  We knew those changes were coming; mobile search is more prevalent than desktop, and it’s much more likely to result in sales for online businesses. In fact, we’ve been blogging about the importance of responsive website design for quite a while now!
Maybe it wasn’t in your budget at the time. Maybe you just didn’t have the time. Maybe you were simply crossing your fingers and hoping not to get hit. For one reason or another, your site didn’t go mobile before Google did – and now you’re facing the consequences.
How Can You Tell If Your Business Was or Will Be Hurt?
Google’s mobile-friendly update (Mobile-ocalypse, if you will) was much tamer than previous updates like Penguin and Panda. In fact, many companies reported feeling untouched by the changes.
If you think you survived the Mobile-ocalypse without updating your site, think again. While your traffic may not have disappeared overnight, this is one algorithm update that’s going to stick with us for a long time. That means as more searchers rely on their smartphones and tablets to find the information they’re seeking, your site will slowly be left behind.
Consider the following fast facts:

Mobile search results are now drastically different from their desktop counterparts. Ranking well for desktop searches is great IF your target audience consistently uses a desktop computer to search for businesses like yours. But Google says most searches are performed on smartphones, and we predict an increasing shift toward mobile search in coming years. In a populated metro area like D.C. or Northern Virginia, where every business faces ample competition, it's especially important for local businesses to outrank their competition. 

The new algorithm has lots of room for improvement. Even if your site isn’t feeling the burn from this most recent update, we can expect lots more in the future. Mobile page speed and other factors are likely to be targeted by upcoming improvements to the current ranking system.
 
Who’s Hurting the Most?
Local businesses are the ones most likely to be hurt when rankings drop as a result of Google’s algorithm change. Smartphone users perform an extraordinary number of searches when they’re looking for a local store, restaurant, or service provider, and they don’t just search – they find! A recent study discovered that 78% of local, mobile searches result in an offline purchase. Can your small business afford to miss out on those sales?
Online retailers, too, need to be aware of the potential losses that come from a lack of mobile optimization. People don’t just use their phones to browse; they are also likely to make purchases straight from their phones. You need to be found when they’re ready to buy.
Surprisingly enough, B2B businesses should also be concerned about the Mobile-ocalypse. A 2014 study revealed that 72% of executives use their smartphones to research products and services for their businesses. While we could easily predict local search and retail stores or restaurants would be hurt by the new mobile algorithm, this one took us by surprise. Again, our area (DC/VA) poses a particular challenge for government contracting firms, software companies, and others struggling to compete in an extremely competitive market.
 
So, How Can You Recover Lost Traffic and Prepare for a Mobile Future?
SEO professionals hate lost rankings because they can be so hard to get back, but if your site was hit by the update, you can recover.
Start with Google’s Mobile-Friendly Test Tool. See how Google has evaluated your site: are you a friend or foe to smartphone searchers?
If Google has less-than-friendly feelings about your site, read their advice for developers and take note of your errors. Some fixes will be easier than others – you may have links or buttons that are too close together, your font size may be too small for users to read easily, or it may be some other UX issue that’s condemning your site to lower mobile rankings. You may be able to work within your CMS in order to make your site more appealing to Google’s new algorithm.
If your existing site is beyond repair, it may be time for a responsive overhaul. Responsive site design is an ideal way to make sure that your site provides an excellent user experience on smartphones, tablets, and desktops alike.
 
Whether you need to play catch-up to recover lost rankings or you want to make sure your company is prepared for future mobile-friendly updates, ImageWorks can help. Contact us to discuss responsive site design or a full mobile site and you’ll be at the top of Google’s “nice” list in no time!

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