Google’s “Mice” Update

Recorded on 2015-04-13

This post first appeared on PumpInteractive.ca

Or as some are calling it, Google’s "Mobilegeddon"

On April 21st Google is set to make a big change to the algorithm it uses to determine where your site is ranked in its mobile search results. This change is focused entirely on the mobile usability of your site and Google’s mobile search results. Since mobile devices have accounted for more and more of the share of total website visits, Google is making sure that its users have the best possible experience on their digital appendages by showing only sites in their search results that they deem to be mobile-friendly.

What does mobile-friendly mean to Google? Mobile-friendly is a pass/fail metric that you can easily measure for yourself using their Mobile-Friendly Test tool. If your site passes the mobile-friendly test, then your site is eligible to be seen within search results on a mobile device, but if not your site just plain won’t show on mobile searches.

Of course, your site’s position on mobile search results isn’t guaranteed to be stellar if your site "passes". Your site will be in competition with the other sites in your market that pass and are eligible to be shown on mobile search results. Through Google Webmaster Tools you can get more detailed information on the usability errors that affect your site and fix them to increase your site’s ability to rank well. Just some optimizations your site may need, even if it passes the mobile-friendly test are: using appropriate font sizes, touch elements sized and spaced properly, the absence of Flash on your pages, your website’s viewport being set for mobile devices, and the viewport being properly configured.

Responsive Design

All of the factors that Google will be looking for on your site after the "Mice" update can be taken care of with a well-crafted responsive site redesign. Responsive sites present your site in different layouts for different devices and it is the method recommended by Google to make your site mobile-friendly. A responsive site is the clear winner among your options for delivering a good mobile experience to your visitors because:

  • It’s flexible. It adjusts to the screen size of all types of devices. When we design a responsive site, we have control over how it is displayed in each of these screen sizes and make design choices to benefit the viewer.
  • The user experience is fantastic. Since each “breakpoint” is explicitly designed by our creative team, the user experience is fine-tuned to fit each device and how visitors interact with your site on those devices. On a mobile breakpoint buttons are usually larger to accommodate finger-focused navigation, navigation elements are structured to readily display the most important actions, and graphics are optimized to load quickly over a cellular data connection.
  • It’s cost effective. Rather than building and maintaining multiple different versions of your sites, which was a popular approach when smartphones were novelties, you only need one version of the site. Content is posted only once making maintenance of your site far easier, and new features are easily implemented for all visitors no matter which device they use.
  • Google recommends it. Many people experience the web through Google. Over 88% of users worldwide rely on Google as their primary search engine. If Google recommends it, there is a good reason for it; because they’ve figured out that it’s a good experience for their searchers.

The Best Time is Now

A responsive website has always been a good idea, but the urgency to give your users a responsive experience has never been higher. Luckily, the Google "Mice" update will be a realtime update, meaning that as soon as your site is made responsive and mobile-friendly Google will pick up on it and start allowing your site to rank in its search results again (unlike some other manual updates like Panda which are updated infrequently, meaning penalties last until the next manual update).

We recently completed responsive redesigns for some of our clients, and each site was approached in a slightly different way.

Green Drop’s recent full-site redesign included a responsive layout. We also added many new features and improvements to the way the site was designed and managed, since it is a core part of their business, but we made sure the mobile and tablet user experience is great, and that the site has every possible opportunity to rank well on mobile search.

For Tourism Canmore we made their existing design responsive without changing the look and feel of the site. Only the keenest visitors to the desktop version of the site will be able to notice a difference, while visitors on a smartphone or tablet will have a much better experience with the all-new layouts optimized for their device.

Every site and every client has different needs, and we can help get your site where it needs to be based on your needs. If you have questions about your site’s design and how it could be improved, get in touch with us and we will take the time to work with you to identify what can be done. We can help you right now with "Mobilegeddon" looming, and in the future to help grow and improve your online presence.