Google change will upend website searches

04/03/2015

Google change will upend website searches

NEW YORK – April 1, 2015 – Starting April 21, Google's new algorithm – the formula it uses to decide how to rank individual websites following a user search – will give more weight to websites that have been adapted for mobile users. Google will also consider how good those mobile sites are.

The change is a nod to the number of users who now access information on smartphones or pads rather than through a computer. A website could, for example, be the best of its kind on the web and offer the most information, but Google could now knock down its ranking if smartphone users find it difficult to navigate.

In addition to having a mobile website version, European-base Sevenval Technologies says search engine optimization (SEO – the marketing tool to get a website at the top of a Google search list) will consider how long it takes a mobile website to load, as well as its display quality.

For Realtors who rely on SEO as a marketing strategy, the change could be significant. At the least, it suggests that agents and brokers who have not adapted their website to mobile use should consider doing so.

However, the change also means that the online world is in transition. While the Google adjustment is a reaction to the increase in the number of mobile users, the change itself could boost the number of mobile users who now find the Internet more user friendly. Some experts predict a spike in smartphone usage for common tasks after April 21.

Sevenval expanded Google's tips with recommendations specifically geared towards more complex websites:

Error-ridden re-directs and linkageEvery page needs to be optimized for mobile – a mobile landing page linked to a desktop site will no longer be enough. A well thought-out Universal Domain Concept should be created in order to properly deal with re-directs.

Error pages on mobile site pagesError pages (404 errors) should be avoided by using an appropriate re-direct. When working with dynamic content, make sure the user agent detection is configured properly.

Mobile site does not existWebsites may have to deal with a fall in a search ranking if smartphone and tablet users are directed to the desktop site, so it's important that all pages are optimized for mobile devices. One possible quick fix: Create a complete mobile site using only selected information from the main website. In doing so, content from the existing website is selected and edited to fit the mobile site.

If possible, website owners should automate this process. However, if they do, they must remember that changes to the main website could be reflected in the version viewed by mobile users.

Slow mobile sitesLong loading times frustrate users and can lead to a lower ranking. Load times of more than 4 seconds result in a significant conversion loss. A solution for this problem can be complex.

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