Google's latest update is no cause for alarm but rather an opportunity to get your mobile strategy in order.
Every time Google issues an update, hotel marketing agencies have a field day writing articles and trying to give you a reason to panic about your online presence. To provide you with a respite from the hyperbole, I would like to assure you that:
Everything is going to be okay.
NB: This is a viewpoint from Vikram Singh, author of the Words of Vikram blog.
This update is actually a great opportunity for you to take your online presence to the next level so here are my answers to some of your burning questions about the recent Google Mobile Update of 2015.
Why is Google doing this update?
Good question. The simple answer is: Google wants to make more money. (Just for reference, this is always the reason Google does anything.)
Google is at the forefront of mobile web. It has seen mobile search surge past desktop usage over the past several years. Its significant investment and success with the Android ecosystem further cements the fact that Google plays to win.
In its continued dominance of global search traffic, Google has a clear agenda: to provide its users with the best possible search experience so that they stay loyal to Google. More Google searches means more chances for users to click on Google Ads, which means more AdWords revenue for Google.
With the majority of web traffic shifting to mobile over the past decade, Google needs to ensure that the websites providing the best mobile experience get top placement in mobile searches.
Think of it as Google’s Spring Cleaning for Mobile Search, where they want to "incentivize" you to have a better mobile presence. Instead of wringing your hands, consider that Google is doing you a favor by reminding you to bring your mobile presence up to par.
Complying with Google’s guidelines is a win-win; it’s not only good for your business, but also great for its business. Google will not be relinquishing its mobile search dominance anytime soon, so…yes, it’s time to get with the program if you haven’t already.
What will happen during this update?
First things first. This is not an "apocalypse" or an "Armageddon" event, as many hotel and web marketing agencies might have you thinking. By using the word "significant" in its announcement of this update, Google made Christmas come early for hotel marketing agencies and their press release machines. But you don’t need to purchase any special marketing services to comply.
Here is what is happening:
On April 21, Google rolled out an update to its algorithm in which mobile-friendly websites will be given preference in rankings. This update is just a reflection of the fact that mobile web is a way of life for humans worldwide, and Google wants to show those humans better search results and more ads.
Likewise, if you have a website, and you want people to find it and use it, you should be providing them with a good mobile experience. Being mobile-friendly is a good common sense practice, like eating more vegetables. (Google is just like your mom, who still reminds you to do it every once in a while, for your own good.)
Or, think of those ‘no shirt, no shoes, no service’ signs outside some beach restaurants. This update is Google’s indication that it has standards too, you know, just in case you have been living under a rock for the past decade.
Unlike previous updates that looked at your website/domain as a whole, the Google Mobile Update will look at your website on a page by page basis. A few pages that are not mobile-optimized will not "blacklist" your entire website. Of course, the pages that are mobile-optimized on your website will get preference in rankings.
Is your website mobile-friendly?
The good news is that you do not need a fortune teller, a "site audit," any sort of advanced digital screening, nor any DNA splicing.
Just test your website using Google's tool here.
Think of this as Google’s very own Hogwarts style mobile-Sorting Hat. You will know where you stand in a few seconds.
Disclaimer: Please know that this test is not perfect. There is no substitute for human testing, and I don’t mean your agency account manager. I mean you need to do it yourself. As I recommend in all my speaking gigs: go to a mobile phone store, and start pulling up your site on different phones and tablets. You might need some device-specific help from a developer for minor issues, but you’ll know if your site works on mobile or not.
Worst case scenario?
With every Google update, nobody but Google engineers knows exactly what is going to happen. But what’s the worst-case scenario if your website is not mobile-optimized? Google might remove the non-mobile-optimized pages from their mobile search results, or at least push them down a few notches.
If this happens, you will notice a change in your organic traffic. Then you’ll know that it’s time to update your mobile experience. Do that, resubmit it to Google Webmaster Tools, and you will be back in the index next time Google robots crawl your website.
A lot of you have read and reviewed and commented on my article on the SEO Bubble, and how it has already burst. I recommend re-reading that article and focusing on the big picture that lies ahead.
Nobody will be annihilated or lose any limbs/appendages because of a Google algorithmic update.
And, while you are reading this guess what will happen to your pay per click ads? Nothing! You see, when you pay Google, it is your best friend. Like I have said before- Pay Per Click is still a hotels best marketing tool.
How do you become mobile-compliant?
Do not panic.
Get off your marketing agency’s proprietary CMS system and move your website to WordPress ASAP. (More on that here) If you ever needed an incentive to properly own your digital assets, this is it.
Once you get yourself onto a nice responsive WordPress theme, go into Google Webmaster Tools, resubmit your website, and check for any other errors.
Check your analytics data after resubmission observe your website performance changes. The web is always evolving: test, observe, repeat.
I feel really old when I think of the "Mobile Web Marketing" speeches I gave circa 2006 at hotel marketing events all over the world. All web is mobile web today. Google is just trying to make some stubborn folks join 2015. For those folks, it’s a perfect time to catch up on some long-needed updates. For the rest of us, it’s business as usual.
Keep calm and stay mobile.
NB: This is a viewpoint from Vikram Singh, author of the Words of Vikram blog. It appeared first here.
NB2: Mobile browser image via Shutterstock.