Google Mobile Algorithm Update Coming April 21st

Hey, ecommerce store owners! Let me tell you a story all about how your SEO rankings could get flipped, turned upside-down. Seriously, this is really important. There’s a new Google algorithm update coming down the pipeline on the 111th day of the Gregorian calendar (April 21st) that could dramatically impact your online store's mobile search rankings unless you take the proper measures. April 21st is also, incidentally, Secretary’s Day, the anniversary of discovering extrasolar planets, and Tony Danza’s birthday; but in the context of your ecommerce store, this Google update is more important than all of that.

So I’d like to take a moment – just sit right there – and I’ll tell you all about how you can avoid Google’s SEO scare.

So, What’s Happening?

Google finally decided that this new-fangled smartphone craze isn’t going away, and as such, they’ve released a heads-up that beginning April 21st, they will expand their emphasis on mobile-friendliness as a crucial SEO ranking signal. They rarely pre-announce an algorithm update – changes in ranking factors are usually gifted to SEOs as a fun surprise, like a giant spider bursting out of a birthday cake – but Google really isn’t out to get you here, so they’re giving you some time to stock your pantry with canned goods and make your website mobile-ready. We’ll cover that in a moment.

The Mobile Ranking Demotion Algorithm actually launched back in 2013, but April’s update will vastly expand upon the initial test run, concretizing the need for a mobile-friendly website via demoting the non-friendly sites in the mobile search results. That was a glass-half-empty-way of saying this: if you can get your site mobile-ready and, ideally, mobile responsive, you will have a leg up on your non-mobile competition!

Now, you may have spotted a key point in that last paragraph: this algorithm only impacts mobile search results. From a UX standpoint, this one seems like a no-brainer: if you’ve ever tried to access a non-mobile-friendly website on your iPhone or Android, there are decent odds that you left it immediately. Nobody wants to buy those magnifying reading glasses from Walgreen’s just to look at a website, even if they do make you look smarter when you wear them. And then you have to pinch and scroll to read the page or get to a link, which is just Carpal Tunnel waiting to happen.

Understandably, search engines would want to push those results as far down the mobile rankings as possible to deliver a browsing experience that you’d actually find useful. If you’re on a desktop, where you can view and read the website without feeling like a giant, your UX will be fine; so Google has no intentions – that we know about – of dinging desktop browser rankings for a non-mobile-friendly site.

That said, don’t get complacent about this, because you’re not relying on desktop traffic alone, even if you think you are. Retail shoppers are some of the biggest players in the mobile-purchasing game, but even B2B consumers, the last ones to make it to the mobile party, make mobile transactions in numbers that increase daily. Google has already stated that this algorithm change will have a “significant impact” on mobile search results, and Google’s messaging isn’t typically hyperbolic, so trust them on this. I’m pretty sure when they say “significant impact” they’re actually referring to that movie “Deep Impact,” in which an asteroid is about to hit the earth (earth = mobile rankings). It’s not the other asteroid movie with the Aerosmith song. They came out at the same time; I know it’s confusing.

Moving on: mobile usability has always been immensely important – a representative from Google recently estimated that about 50% of all searches made on Google are from mobile devices – and Google just threw down the gavel with this update. They even said this new algorithm change will have a greater influence on rankings than the previous Panda and Penguin algorithm updates, each of which shook up the world of search in their own right. You heard me correctly: the mobile algorithm update is so important, it doesn’t even have a cute animal name.

What Can You Do To Make Your Ecommerce Store Mobile-Friendly?

Sorry for the scare tactics, kids. I was just trying to get you to pay attention. Here’s the non-Debbie Downer news: it’s actually pretty easy to prepare for this, especially if you’re on a Volusion ecommerce platform. Here’s how:
  • Use Google’s free mobile-friendly testing tool to see if your ecommerce store makes the cut. If it does, the testing tool will return a page that looks like this:
mobile-friendly-1 If it doesn’t, the results will look something like this, complete with the hilariously awkward sentence, “Page appears not mobile-friendly”:mobile-friendly-2
  • Alternately, you can see how your website stacks up for each page by using the Google Mobile-Friendly Test Tool. If there are any serious issues, you’ll get detailed feedback alongside a report that will resemble this one:
mobile wmt It’s going to hurt a little, but it’s for your own good. If your website is not mobile-friendly, you can log into your Google Analytics account to get a full picture of how this might impact your site come April 21st. Navigate over to Mobile on the left-hand side of your report, and then filter by organic traffic. The number of visitors and (conversions) you see is what you’ll potentially lose after the algorithm change. There’s plenty more information in the Google Mobile User Guidelines if you want to do your homework, but you can also skip directly to helping yourself out via some fun Volusion hacks.

Mobile-Friendly Solutions from Volusion for Ecommerce SEO

If your website is built on a Volusion ecommerce platform and you’re using an older template, there’s a chance that your website is not mobile-ready. If you’ve tested it and confirmed this, you have a few options:
  • Keep your legacy template and create a separate mobile version of your store using Volusion Mobile Commerce. Once mobile commerce is enabled, you can go to your back end and navigate to Design > Mobile and set both your Mobile Storefront and Mobile Checkout switch to “On.” This will make you good-to-go for the mobile search results.
  • Update your website template to a responsive one: All Volusion merchants have the option of switching or upgrading their website template at any time. If you’re using a legacy template, we strongly suggest switching over to a responsive design template or get a custom web design package. Responsive design is actually a step up from mobile-friendly; mobile-friendly means that your website will load on a mobile device quickly and without any bugs, and it’s enough to keep Google happy for this round of changes.
Responsive design, on the other hand, actively shifts the layout of your entire website to meet the unique needs of the user’s screen size. This likely means that a desktop version of a responsive template will contain detailed text and multiple photos, whereas the responsive version may only include major calls to action and large buttons to the most relevant pages. Here’s an example of a responsive layout on four different devices: responsibe-mobile

Note that as the device gets smaller, the text disappears and the user is left with a compelling image, some purchasing options, and a clear “Add to Cart” button. This is considered the ideal experience for a mobile user.

There’s another great incentive to updating your template if you’re using an older one: just like with fashion or music, website design trends shift rapidly. Some of our legacy templates reflect the trends of the time in which they were designed, and this would be a great opportunity to update the look and feel of your website while appealing to the design aesthetic of today’s market. Just check out some of these beauties. That’s some serious UX-appeal.

Best of all, updating your template is not tantamount to paying for a new one. While you can certainly pay for an upgrade if you’re interested in one of our priced options, we also offer a number of free responsive templates.  So put some new clothes on your website and keep it looking fabulous.

This is a Major Opportunity for Ecommerce Store Owners

There’s always a lot of hand-wringing about SEO algorithm updates, but this one shouldn’t leave you feeling scared. Yes, it’s a game-changer; but if you’re working with Volusion, you’re playing on a winning team. We’re the Peeta to your ecommerce store’s Katniss: the guy who hangs out in the background and makes you look good. So get your site mobile-friendly by April 21st and start crushing your non-mobile competitors. May the SEO odds be ever in your favor.

If you need help with SEO, contact our professional SEO services team.