Did you let all that talk about "Mobilegeddon" go in one ear and out of the other over the last couple of weeks? On April 21, 2015, Google launched one of the biggest algorithm changes in its history. Dubbed "Mobilegeddon" by SearchEngineLand, the updated algorithm is actively seeking out websites that aren't mobile ready. If your website doesn't display well on mobile devices, your search engine optimization (SEO) ranking may plummet and Google even warned of manual penalties for the worst offenders, according to SearchEngineWatch.

This shouldn't come as much of a surprise to website managers and designers who have been keeping up with mobile readiness/responsive design trends. Gartner reports that the majority of American web surfers will be using mobile devices by 2017 (right now it's in the 40-something percent). Google, as the most widely used search engine in the U.S., almost has no choice but to force each and every website to go mobile or go home.

The company announced on its official blog on February 26 that the change "will affect mobile searches in all languages worldwide and will have a significant impact in our search results." Immediately, commenters started guessing what this really meant and which websites would win--and which would end up as losers. Most of the speculation ever since has centered around just how mobile-friendly your site has to be in order to weather the storm made by the update.

What Website Owners Can Do

If you needed a little encouragement to optimize your website and embrace mobile readiness, this is it. To find out how mobile friendly your site is right now, Google offers a free mobile-friendly test. Hopefully, you get the "Awesome! This page is mobile-friendly" result, but there's only one way to find out. No matter what your grade, make sure to visit Google's official mobile SEO guide because this tells you exactly what Google wants. It's like getting a teacher-approved cheat sheet for the big test. The biggest mistakes are slow mobile pages, mobile-only 404 errors, blocked CSS/JavasScript/image files, faulty redirects, cross-links that don't make sense, and unplayable content to name just a few.

If you've put it off, get someone who knows responsive design on your side immediately. You may have avoided a penalty so far, but Google will eventually catch you. If you passed, don't assume everything is coming up roses. You want more than "mediocre." Use the Google Developer's Page Speed Insight Tools to find out more information and make your website as fast as it can be--which is a must for viewing on a mobile page. Studies have shown that people want mobile pages to load even faster than desktop. This toolset also tells you if the Flash you use is appropriate, if you have render-blocking scripts on your site that need nixing or changing, if your JavaScript is "healthy," if your web host is doing you any favors (or not), if browser caching could speed up your website, and if you can compress site images for better display.

A Deep Cleaning

At this point, it makes sense to go after the easiest, fastest, cheapest solutions first. However, you need more than a light dusting--it's time to "deep clean" your website and appease the Google algorithm (as well as your customers). Make sure your plug-ins are updated, the navigation structure is simple, and your comments section (if applicable) is clean.

Here's your checklist for a Google-friendly clean sweep:

  • Reduce image file sizes when possible
  • Audit all plug-ins
  • Reduce how many calls your website is making to servers besides your own
  • Make the user experience as minimalistic as possible
  • Hire a website designer with responsive design and mobile readiness expertise
  • Consider adding a mobile version of your site and/or an app to the experience.

The good news? The majority of sites aren't going to get "perfect" Google scores. Unless your site is in a really sorry state, you're probably far from bottom of the barrel. However, being "middle of the pack" isn't going to carry you for long in the world of website design. Take it one upgrade at a time, from adding in a fantastic app to testing your website to ensure it loads beautifully and quickly on every device and platform.

Remember: Google isn't out to get you. As a matter of fact, you should be highly motivated to follow along with this update. If you do, it means a better user experience for customers, and a greater likelihood they will help you make money by buying your product or reading your content. If you've struggled to beat competitors in the past, this could be the chance you've been waiting for to make a move and grow your brand.

Published on: Apr 30, 2015