Fed up with the scaremongering surrounding last week’s mobile-friendly algorithm roll out by Google, leading UK and US search marketing experts agree that ‘Mobilegeddon’ actually gives small and medium sized businesses the advantage, as long as they don’t panic.
Talking ahead of next Month’s UnGagged London, a major SEO conference for digital marketers, a number of experts including two former senior members of the Google Webspam team and Head of SEO at uSwitch.com, Lucasz Zelezny, agree that SME businesses have everything to gain over their larger, less agile rivals.
“Small businesses tend to be far more flexible with their tech teams able to apply changes far quicker and easier than larger enterprises due to a less complicated infrastructure, also making it easier to roll out new software and processes,” said Mr Zelezny.
Case in point is the European Union’s own website as well as many Fotune500 company websites which are still reportedly non-compliant with Google’s mobile-friendly criteria, despite 2 months advance warning from the search giant and in the face of modern day consumer purchasing behaviours.
Unlike Google’s previous Penguin and Panda updates though, the mobile algorithm change is focussed on improving the web rather than penalising bad practice so should be embraced by businesses, according to Matthew Tulett of digital marketing agency The Orange Cow.
“I would urge businesses large and small to use the mobile friendly update to take stock and asses their mobile strategy. Stats show just how much business is done via smartphones these days so rather than a headache, this particular algo change should be seen as helping businesses focus on ways to achieve growth in areas that, until now, might otherwise have been ignored.”
Jono Alderson, Head of Insight at Linkdex, added “In many ways, it’s easier for small businesses to pivot and reinvent themselves and their business strategy based on how their customers prefer to interact with them.”
This resonated with many of the experts, all agreeing that small businesses are perfectly placed to benefit from the roll out as long as they approach the change with the right mind-set and understand that revolving strategy around customer purchasing patterns is the only way to maintain market share and stay ahead of competitors.
While this approach might of course require investment, Jono Alderson was quick to point out that this mind-set will help business owners better welcome and harness the opportunities that such a move brings. “You should continually invest in how you interact with your consumers online in exactly the same way you should continually train your staff to interact optimally with your customers face to face.”
Another expert and former senior member of the Google Webspam team Kaspar Szymanski offered a slightly more frank approach though, pointing out that site owners should offer the right experience for the right user at the right time for the right device in the right location.
“It’s not rocket science. Bite the bullet, ditch your unresponsive site or your ‘m.’ subdomain and embrace a blend of responsive, reactive, adaptive content and templates. Do it now, or be displaced by competitors who got there – and stopped frustrating their customers – years ago!”
Rather than take any rash actions with their websites though, Mr Szymanski’s fellow SerchBrothers.com co-founder and former Google colleague Fili Wiese urged SME business owners to keep calm in the face of Google’s roll out, ensuring they understand their business model first and foremost.
“Small and medium businesses with a limited web development budget should ultimately pick and choose their online battles, continuing to focus on what they are best at and understand that their site doesn’t necessarily need to be mobile friendly to be successful. Especially if their product requires careful evaluation by their customers as most of their conversions will likely happen on desktop anyway.”
Furthermore, even if as a website owner you do not make any immediate efforts to comply with Google’s mobile friendly requirements, there is definitely light at the end of the Mobilegeddon tunnel.
“As and when you make mobile-friendly changes to your site, Google’s spiders will automatically re-crawl and index your pages. So as long as you have followed Google’s guidelines, then Google should treat these pages as mobile-friendly in ranking,” according to UnGagged London’s Chief Operations Officer Craig Rayner.
A good dose of reality is always needed to accompany any Google announcement, according to Matt Beswick of Milton Keynes based web agency Aira, where smaller brand and website owners need not fear Google as much as they might do.
“Google are great at PR. They manage to strike fear into the hearts of business owners and SEOs alike who should know better. The key thing is to remember that they don’t always do what they say and, at the end of the day, all they want to achieve is a better search experience for their users, who are ultimately your customers.”
Similar then to any small or medium business wanting to succeed on the web, the moment Google stop providing the best offering to their end users is the same moment that their competitors have a chance to catch them. Evolution and best practice in digital strategy is therefore as vital for SME business & website owners and in-house or agency side SEO consultants as it is for Google itself.
Closing the discussion though with a strong parting shot was former Google employee Fili Wiese, who warned that, despite the opportunities, any small or medium sized businesses only just embracing mobile friendly websites or digital marketing strategies have already been missing out.
“If you’re giving users a poor mobile experience today, then you’ve already been missing out on revenue and market share, and hurting your reputation – in a way which Google can understand, measure, and factor back into your rankings and visibility – for the best part of a decade. So how Google treats you as of their latest update could be the last of your worries so change and adapt your business model fast!”
A stark warning indeed and reinforcing that, in a space that is so fast paced and dynamic where consumers are evolving the way they interact and engage with businesses, embracing change is the only way to ensure growth and success, whether that be spurred by Google or your own customer insights.
UnGagged London’s 5 mobile-friendly action points
Here are some ‘first steps’ to take when responding to Google’s latest mobile friendly algorithm update, whether a business employs their own in-house SEO team or outsources their SEO to an agency:
1. The algorithm roll out affects only search rankings on mobile devices and applies to individual pages, not entire websites, so make sure your most important pages are indexed as mobile friendly as soon as possible.
2. Check if your site is already considered mobile friendly by Google – you should see the mobile friendly label in the mobile search results or use Google’s mobile friendly test to check. There may be a delay in Google identifying mobile friendly web pages on your site though.
3. Get your SEO team to cross check Google’s ‘top seven mistakes webmasters make when going mobile friendly’ blog post here to see if they are guilty!
4. Check the status of your entire site through the Mobile Usability report in Webmaster Tools that identifies those pages on your site suffering from severe usability problems for mobile visitors.
5. Having made the changes, instruct Google’s spiders to crawl your site sooner than they might have otherwise done by using Google’s Fetch as Google function here
UnGagged London takes place on 16-18th May 2015, bringing together some of the world’s top SEOs and internet marketers in a unique atmosphere. Places are restricted with the speakers themselves setting the agenda to ensure free flow of tactics, knowledge and content. Visit the Ungagged London website for speaker profiles and topics.