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Are You Prepared for Mobilgeddon?

We live in the end times, right? At least that’s what Google wants you to think. Most are probably somewhat familiar with the term “Armageddon,” which is the biblical prediction for the end of the world.  Well Google's latest update is being dubbed Mobilegeddon because it means the end of high ranking for websites that are not mobile compliant.

While it might not represent the end of the World Wide Web, what Google has indicated is that if your website is deemed “not mobile-friendly,” your listing could soon be relegated to the backwaters of the world’s most popular search engine.  While this could be cause for many website owners to panic, they should take some comfort that when a major web portal tested the top 25,000 websites in the world, more than 10,000 of them failed, including the site of U.S.’ Homeland Security.

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Now, Google stirring the pot with its algorithm changes is nothing new. Remember, we had Penguin, then Humming Bird and its latest monkey wrench called Pigeon thrown at us. All of these were significant changes to Google’s search algorithm and they all caused mayhem in search engines. Each caused losers and winners to call foul or exclaim hooray unless you were truly following the “content-is-king” model that we profess in this blog and our radio show. Our basic strategy is to give Google and the other search engines what they say they want on face value. That is, we provide lots of high-quality, current and relevant content that is optimized for the keywords on daily basis. The accumulation of the high-quality content raises you to the top of search because you are providing the best “answer” to the keyword search that people are searching for. This method does not chase algorithms, it provides what prospects and visitors are seeking: quality content that helps them make a decision to trust you to be their provider.

Before you throw yourself under the Google bus, there are several things you can do to protect yourself. First, test your site to see if it is mobile-friendly. Click here to visit Google test site and check out your site. Another way is to read this and other articles to get educated on the changes. That’s includes listening to the podcast of our show on BlogTalkRadio on this same subject.

Bear in mind that at this juncture, Google’s tool assumes that HTML5 resizing of a web page is inadequate. HTML5 automatically resizes websites to fit any platform, including smartphones. However, in many cases, the print becomes small and links become too close for those of us with fat thumbs to use. Anyone with a smartphone can expand the page view by just moving their fingers on the screen to make the image bigger. And this does solve the problem to some extent. However, Google feels that this is not good or friendly enough. I tend to agree.

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Case in point: When I put our site through Google's test, this is how it displayed our site on their simulated smartphone: This page is coded in HTML5 yet it doesn't fully scale to the smartphone formats. Granted, this is not one of our landing pages, which does scale (pages we hunt with) or our Blogger site, which also scales (because it's owned by Google). However, the test provides the feedback we need to correct this kind of problem.

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This is how it should look when HTML5 scales properly to a smartphone. We're already looking to use Google webmaster tools to resolve the issue on our nexus site. 

Of course, you can always resize the website on a tablet, fablet or smartphone as well. That's one of the advantages of smart devices. I have used this resizing capabilities in stores many times when my aging Baby Boomer eyes can't quite make out the smaller images or text.

To make the mystery even better, we also found that a couple of other company-owned websites built using identical HTML5 architecture came up as mobile-friendly on Google's testing page. So why the difference?  It's possible there may be some code fragment missing that the Google bots need to understand these pages. There may also be some code that blocks Google bots from seeing the dynamic resizing code. Google gives some hints on its test site as to why these sites may not be passing. Either way, it's a good time for every website owner to reassess their site and make sure the website is giving you -- the owner -- the best chance to score when someone visits your page.

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If your site is deemed search-engine-unfriendly, at least you’re in good company ... for now.  According to, you’re hardly alone:

“Losers: Popular news sharing site Reddit topped the list of losers, followed by NBC SportsVogue, Song Lyrics and Bloomberg Business. I suspect a bunch of people at Reddit are about to lose their minds over this. But the Reddit home page doesn’t test as mobile friendly, and that could be true of many other pages inside the site, as well.

The home pages of NBC Sports and SongLyrics didn’t test friendly either; I couldn’t even get Google’s mobile friendly testing tool to process SongLyrics. Vogue’s home page did test as friendly, but potentially it has problems with internal pages.”

Knowing this, I spent the next three hours manually entering every one of the 173 websites we created and host for ourselves and our clients.  With the exception of the website and seven client-owned sites we created before the advent of HTML5, all our clients came up as mobile search-engine-friendly. (I submitted a new XML sitemap for the site to see if this doesn’t help the Google bots cure their myopia regarding our site.)

What’s it All About, Google?

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So why is Google going out of its way to penalize a website owner who has worked hard to get their website onto Page One? Why is Google in such a big rush to push everyone to have a mobile-friendly website? I believe the answer lies in Google’s need to expand its pay per click market, which is its largest revenue stream. This has caused a relatively flat growth for a while now. Think of it this way, Google likes to sell pay per click advertising to businesses that want to be on Page One of Google search. I believe Google's pay per click sales have been flat because the conversion rate for many who use AdWords is down. Why? Many “regular” websites aren’t converting clicks to sales when people use their smartphones to access the Internet. These websites have poor conversion rates because they are not mobile-friendly. Again, this is speculation on my part, but it makes sense, especially from Google’s perspective.

There are other factors in play as well that affect visitor conversion (see our articles Making Pay Per Click Pay Big Dividends,” and “Six Things That Turn PPC Ads Into Advertising That Pays”), and these should not be ignored. However, forcing companies to make their site more mobile-friendly is a good move on Google's part. First, it will require a whole lot of new website owners that need Page One position to succeed to start using AdWords again. Especially if they fell off of Page One because of this change. And two, this algorithm change should improve conversion rate for pay per click because mobile users will be able to actually read the web pages they land on.

From Google’s perspective the answer is clear: Mobile is the future of the Internet. Cellphone providers in the past five years have put a web-capable smartphone in the hands of 75% of the citizens in this country. (Nearly 80 million smartphone users do their social networking on the device as well.) As the price of smartphones continues to fall and desktop and laptops continue to shrink, will there come a time when all computers are quasi-mobile?

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The popularity of phablets is also another way in which the lines between laptops, tablets and smartphones continues to blur.  While phablets were merely smartphones on steroids two years ago, as solid state memory chips continue to get more powerful and ever-more affordable, we’re already starting to see phablets that can do nearly everything that a laptop can do and sometimes more.  

While cutting-edge phablets, tablets, micro-PCs and mini-laptops give computer users an ever-expanding range of choices, from a website owner’s perspective, trying to create a one-size-fits-all site can prove to be a challenge.  That’s one of the reasons that dynamic programming languages such as HTML5 are all the rage.  Below are the three most popular perspectives viewed via HTML5:

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With the pick-a-size web surfing world, using a platform or code that can dynamically adapt your websites to whatever platform they might be viewed in doesn’t just make sense from a Google-centric perspective.  It also makes sense from a visibility issue, since the secret to online success is to make it easy for people to do business with you, regardless of what platform they’re using to access your site.  Today, that means different online strokes for different folks.  If you aren’t ready, willing and able to allow people to view your sites on the platform of their choice, then Mobilegeddon will be the least of your worries.

In this article, I discussed the consequences and implications of Google's latest algorithm change that’s being called Mobilegeddon. I explored the current status of the World Wide Web where most websites are not prepared for Mobilegeddon or the mobile traffic that Google says it now emphasizes. I also provided a link to Google mobile compliance testing page and showed how Google’s test site doesn’t fully take into account HTML5, which dynamically resizes a page to fit the devices it is being displayed on.

If you’d like to read similar articles about Google updates, check out: “Has Google Given Everyone the Bird with its Pigeon Update?," and "Hummingbird is Nothing to Hum About!," or just type words "Google algorithm" in the search box at the top left of this blog.

If you'd like a free copy of our eBook, "Internet Marketing Tips for the 21st Century," please fill in the form below and we'll email it to you. Your information is always kept private and is never sold.

Carl Weiss is president of Working the Web to Win, an award-winning digital marketing agency based in Jacksonville, Florida.  You can listen to Carl live every Tuesday at 4 p.m. Eastern on BlogTalkRadio.

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