What do the Sweeping Google Changes Mean to Your Business?

With less than 10 days before the most profound changes to Google algorithms this year, we take a look at what they will or won’t mean for your brand’s visibility online.

On February 26, Google announced major changes to the algorithms that affect mobile search. Those changes will begin to roll out on April 21. Here’s what they say:

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.

Let’s break that down into layman’s terms.

Google knows that mobile web traffic is the future. They are saying that if your website is designed to read well on a mobile device—like a smartphone or a tablet—you’ll get a nice, friendly designation for that when you pop up in a search result on one of said devices. The designation looks like this.

ftrgooglemobilefriendlychanges

That’s good news for FishingTackleRetailer (and you too, Dick’s Sporting Goods), but it’s not good news for anyone who has waited until now to develop their website for mobile. Why? Because websites that don’t earn a mobile-friendly designation could be heavily penalized in search results.

It’s estimated that 30 percent of all total web traffic now comes from mobile devices. For some websites, the numbers are even more skewed. We don’t have a problem telling you that almost half of our own web traffic at FishingTackleRetailer.com comes from mobile. What’s more, about 98 percent of search engine traffic comes via Google.

These changes have huge implications.

To explain, we’re going to dissect page one of the Google search results for “retail fishing gear.” That’s basically the extension of the above screenshot if you were able to scroll down. We’ll do the same case study again after April 21 to show you if Google has changed anything.

Here are the search results, in order of ranking, on a mobile device in the Southeast United States:

  1. Fishing Tackle Retailer √
  2. Dick’s Sporting Goods √
  3. TackleDirect
  4. Cabela’s √
  5. Gander Mountain √
  6. Simms Fishing Products
  7. Fishing Tackle Unlimited
  8. Bass Pro Shops √
  9. The Sportsman’s Guide √
  10. Barlow’s Tackle

However, we have some bad news.

That √ beside some of the listings indicates a “mobile-friendly” label from Google. And that means anyone without such a label faces what Google calls a “significant impact” to their search engine results going forward. And that means that Barlow’s will likely need to redevelop their website if they want to stay in the game.

Let’s do another quick study—localized search results for “fishing tackle” in Memphis, Tennessee. (This just happens to be where my phone geo-locates to, but you can try the same in your area.)

googlemapsresults
A Google Maps listing can give you a SEO boost

Here are the results:

  1. Strike King Lure Co.
  2. Memphis Net & Twine Co.
  3. Orvis
  4. Academy Sports
  5. Tackle Direct √
  6. Bass Pro Shops √
  7. Dick’s Sporting Goods √
  8. Tackle Warehouse √
  9. Wikipedia √
  10. FishUSA √
  11. Fishing Tackle Unlimited
  12. Jann’s Netcraft
  13. Shakespeare Rods √

Throw the first three out. They are all Google Maps listings for brick-and-mortar locations. That’s great for them—and it shows you how important listing your business with Google Maps is—but they don’t list a mobile-friendly designation or not.

Now. Take a look at the rest. Do you notice any trends?

The big box boys are all over mobile design. The online retailers? They’re there, too. But not all of them … yet. In fact, both categories have a few noticeable missing ends. Academy Sports is the only big box on page one without a designation. They’ve probably invested heavily to be listed so high up the charts, and they’re dangerously close to losing a lot of ground right now. Fishing Tackle Unlimited lacks a mobile-friendly tag as well. Falling down the charts could cost them sales against their competition.

You can bet both won’t be behind for long.

The bottom line is that you should invest in a modern, mobile-friendly web design. Why? Because on search engines, independent retailers can compete with the big box stores. You can compete with the online retailers—especially when it comes to localized results. You just need to have a website that’s able to do it.

Under the current rules of Google, it’s possible. However, those rules are changing quickly.

Google offers a free guide to mobile-friendly sites. That’s step one to learning what you need to know to make things happen. After you check that out, run your store’s website through their mobile-friendly test.

Did you pass? Did you fail? Do you want to know more about mobile-friendly, responsive web design? Let us know.

As Ken Duke would say, a rising tide lifts all boats.