Phone-pocalypse Averted – But Google Wasn’t Crying Wolf
The advent of Mobilegeddon has come and gone and didn’t shake up the front page of search results nearly as much as everybody predicted. Not being mobile-optimized doesn’t mean you’re dead to the Internet.
But Google wasn’t just crying wolf. You still need a mobile site, and you’re likely to need it more and more as time goes on. The Internet as a whole will continue to gradually shift to meet mobile-friendly demand.
In case you’ve been under a rock: Website owners are scrambling to adapt to Google’s new Panda revisions that, as of April 21, prioritize the ranking of mobile-friendly sites when it comes to searches that come from mobile devices. “Mobile-friendly” can mean a few different things.
In this case, the most likely factors in play are load speed on a mobile device; easy up-and-down scrolling without the need for left-and-right scrolling; and swipe compatibility. Buttons and links should also appear large enough to make for easy tapping. While the actual ranking algorithm (and therefore the weight of each variable) remains top-secret, Google isn’t playing a guessing game. If you want to know whether the search engine considers your website mobile-friendly, visit the Google Developers site, enter your URL and click “Analyze.”
While Google’s algorithm update didn’t drastically change the ranking of most websites (even decidedly mobile-unfriendly ones), chances are good that the tweaking will continue in that direction. There is still speculation about how to best cater to the search engine’s new schema. But one thing is sure: This isn’t a fad. The Internet is climbing into your pocket.
Last week, Google confirmed that in 10 countries (including the United States), mobile devices initiate more than half of all online searches. That means unless your website is mobile-responsive to be just as swipe-able as it is clickable, a wealth of consumers (yes, that’s the collective noun ) are getting frustrated with your site and bouncing onward to the next match.
How else is the mobile revolution affecting search engines? For one, voice search is on the rise. We’re finally in the age we’ve waited for since “Star Trek”: when we can have informative conversations with our computers. (“Oh, a keyboard. How quaint.”) More than half of teenagers – and plenty of adults as well – use voice search on a daily basis. Since search engines are now closely integrated into mobile phones’ interfaces, voice commands can seamlessly range from “Give me directions” to “Send a text message” to “Call Mom.” And, indeed, these are the three most common types of voice commands across all three major mobile platforms (Android, iOS and Windows Phone).
Questions and Answers
That makes for more and more complete sentences plugged into search engines, since most people feel less awkward saying “OK Google, direct me to the nearest grocery store,” than, “OK Google, supermarket Boston.” The onus is then on search engines to interpret the speaker’s intent. This may make Google’s ranking algorithm start leaning away from verbatim phrases and more toward contextual intelligence. Complete-question search queries (such as “How old is Barack Obama?” or “Who is the Secretary of Defense?”) have gone up substantially year over year – and when a searcher asks a question, he or she isn’t looking for that question on a website; he or she is looking for the answer.
That said, it might not be a bad idea to include in your headings a question or two that readers might have asked to get them there. Only do this if they fit your page without contrivance, however. The focus should be on getting the topic right, not on exact-match keywords.
What Changed, and Will There Be More?
In our next blog entry, read about the degree to which Google’s April 29 rollout affected page rankings, and how to stay ahead of the curve as search engines cater more and more to mobile devices.