Prepare for Mobilgeddon

By IvyLee Rosario

MobilegeddonGoogle rolled out their mobile-friendly algorithm update in April, and although it has sent some businesses into a panic, there are certain tips that retailers can keep in mind during this change that will help create continued success to a mobile friendly system. The algorithm known as Mobilgeddon is a worldwide update that will give a ranking boost to websites that render well on mobile devices. “Mobilgeddon” is a very appropriate name, and only in small part because of its impact on SEO marketing campaigns. “For many people in the world, the technology that connects them to information is not a computer, but rather a smartphone,” said Tansy OBryant, ChannelAdvisor’s SEO Strategist. “There was a pressing need for an algorithm that would ‘cut the mobile wheat for the mobile chaff.’”

If wondering whether or not your website is mobile friendly, Google defines this as a page where text is readable without tapping or zooming, tap targets are spaced appropriately and the page avoids unplayable content or horizontal scrolling. In Google Webmaster Tools, there is a category called “Mobile Usability” and a tab under Crawl Errors to help retailers create pages that meet the criteria of “Mobile-Friendly.” Although these changes are for the better, Mobilgeddon will affect online and brick-and-mortar retailers differently. For those strictly on web store platforms, change only happens as fast as the platform and templates change. “To sensibly manage risk, large e-commerce platform providers, as well as the retailers they support, tend to change only once the market is kicking down the door demanding a change, which leaves retailers scrambling,” said OBryant. “SEO strategists quickly discovered that the concept of “Mobile Usability” and the math that measures “Mobile Friendliness” differ greatly.”

Data collected on large ecommerce sites from April 14 to April 28 of this year shows a drop in rank on mobile searches. The largest drop was seen on sites that served only the desktop version of their site to smartphone users. E-commerce site owners can best observe Mobilegeddon’s effects by analyzing branded terms in Google Webmaster tools. For brick-and-mortar retailers that have websites, OBryant says that they might see a decline in foot traffic for those whose clientele tend to window shop using mobile devices before going to the physical store. “Local retailers, with ‘anti-mobile’ sites may cause their local listing to receive fewer impressions due to poor quality score, or find they are ranked below their local competitors in local searches. This may also result in reduced foot traffic.”

MobilegeddonIn order to survive Mobilgeddon retailers need to create a long-term plan to ensure that their websites are mobile friendly, responsive and easy to use. According to OBryant, the following are some recommended strategies retailers could use in order to keep their business’ site running smoothly:

• Stop Redirecting Pages: Deal with out-of-stock products by using schema and on page flags if you anticipate that the product will be restocked. 301 redirecting the out of stock product to the new in-stock page can create a long trail of multiple redirects. If you do not intend to restock the product, allow the product page to 404. Create a whiz-bang 404 error pages that entices shoppers to take the next click. A fashion retailer may bring a new seasonal line of products to market every 90 days, while at the same time sun setting the products from the previous season.

• “Above the fold” content will load faster if you are text heavy and media light. Avoid cumbersome scripts and ads.

• Allow images, CSS and JavaScript to load in parallel and do not block them from the robots.txt

• Do not split your link popularity between an and .com site. Order navigation by importance from Page Analytics

If you are looking to replace your mobile traffic, there are some digital marketing strategies that might work while you are upgrading your site. “Everyone needs a ‘rainy day’ plan to balance unexpected weather across all marketing channels. Many marketplaces like Amazon did very well in the update,” said OBryant. “While you work to upgrade your mobile site, consider investing in other marketplace and comparison shopping engines. Declines in organic impression hit most retailers on their branded terms. Bid aggressively on your best-branded terms until organic impressions recover.” If you find yourself unsure of whether Mobilgeddon will affect your website or not, focus on ‘organic traffic.’

In Google Webmaster Tools, set the date range from April 14th to April 28th, said OBryant, and this is your benchmark data. “As time passes, you should use a date range of 30 days or more. In the Search Traffic Category, investigate the impact mobile using the filter in Top Queries and Top Pages. If the mobile update impacted you negatively, you will see an average drop of 10% or more, particularly on your brand name.” In Google Analytics set up an Organic Mobile Dashboard that measures the impact of mobile on organic traffic specifically. If you experience a downward trend, of course you need to fix the problem but you also need to diversify your marketing portfolio to include other channels. Mobilgeddon may seem like a burden, but in the end it will help strengthen your mobile sites and provide instant and convenient access for your customers. “Develop a ‘rainy day’ plan for unexpected turbulence in the marketing landscape,” said OBryant, “and you will find success in Mobilgeddon.”