Google is making a significant change to its algorithm on 21st April. We say significant because usually when Google makes a change to its algorithm, we’re playing guessing games – we don’t know when it’s coming or what the change is.

But this time, we’ve had a warning with a date from Google themselves, and SEOs all over the world have named it: Mobilegeddon! So how will the algorithm update affect your site?

From Google’s mouth:

“Starting April 21, we will be expanding our use of mobile-friendliness as a ranking signal. This change will affect mobile searches in all languages worldwide and will have a significant impact in our search results. Consequently, users will find it easier to get relevant, high quality search results that are optimized for their devices.” See more on Google Webmaster’s blog article.

Put more clearly: if you don’t have a mobile site or a responsive website that is optimised for mobiles, Google is warning you that your site could drop in the Google rankings, and you could lose significant traffic.

Why are you doing this to us Google?!

The objective of the algorithm update is that Google wants to be providing mobile searchers with the most intuitive websites – less zooming in and failing to click on links, and more easy-to-read content and easy-to-use navigation.

At SMX West early this month in California, it was reported that mobile search currently makes up 30% of all search engine traffic, regardless of industry. For some companies, it’s more than half of all traffic, and it’s growing all the time.

But what if you’re in an industry where less than 30% of your traffic comes from mobile devices?

You might be thinking that you’re not too worried about how your website looks on mobile devices. But remember it’s not just about how it looks, it just means that you’re website will likely not show up on mobile search results. And who knows how mobile search results may affect desktop search results in the future.

A mobile-friendly website is a necessity at the moment for many sites that rely heavily on mobile traffic. But even if a mobile friendly site isn’t your priority in the short term, it’s a good long-term investment to consider, when you look at the direction Google is heading in.

What’s the difference between mobile sites and responsive sites?

Having a mobile site allows it to be built and optimised for mobile users in specific. Mobile sites usually have less content than responsive sites, a different navigation system, or other unique mobile-only options. Mobile sites are quite simple to build, but you have to consider the “lifetime cost” of a mobile site – which would require maintenance – editing content etc – that would be separate from a responsive site.

A responsive website is optimised for all screen sizes, and displays the website in the best possible format for a computer, smartphone, laptop or tablet. It’s a cost-effective and lower maintenance option. Unlike mobile sites, responsive websites have no direct ranking benefit. However indirectly, it will affect your site’s performance, as a positive user experience will encourage more visits, return, more inbound links, more social shares…

Will your site survive the upcoming SEO-Pocalypse?

Here’s a handy tool from Google to check if your site is mobile-friendly:

Make a note of your rankings before and after 21st April – it could be very interesting!!

Written by Annabel Ross, SEO Specialist at ExtraMile Communications.

At ExtraMile we try to take an hour out each week to look around us at what others do and to gain inspiration and to admire people’s creativity. Each post in this series is one staff member’s take on the world of web, design and things online. We hope you enjoy it.