What Your Library Needs to Know About Mobilegeddon

This post originally appeared on TechSoup's blog. Google's algorithm change to favor mobile sites shouldn't scare you, but it should get you thinking about your library's mobile strategy. Here are a few tips to help you weather "Mobilegeddon."

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When journalists add the suffix "-geddon" to an event or trend, you can usually be assured that it's not nearly as disastrous as it sounds. This is more or less the case with the so-called "Mobilegeddon," Google's April 21 change that gives a boost to mobile-friendly sites in mobile search results.

What Does Mobilegeddon Really Mean?

This algorithm change means that sites that aren't considered "mobile-friendly" by Google could sink to the bottom of mobile search results. Sites that do pass the test get the "mobile-friendly" stamp of approval (really — see screenshot below) and appear toward the top of search results.

screenshot showing mobile-friendly Google search results

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

In reality, this change isn't the end of the world for your website if you haven't yet optimized for mobile. But it should serve as a prod to get a mobile strategy in place for your nonprofit's website. No matter what Google, Bing, or Yahoo! do with their search algorithms, your constituents need to be able to access your services and information via a mobile device.

What Changed in Google's Algorithm?

While "Mobilegeddon" sounds super scary and destructive, here are a few facts to keep you grounded about what it actually is:

  1. Google announced the change back in February, giving people time to make mobile-friendly changes to their websites. It's not a capricious change that Google made overnight.
  2. This change applies to individual pages, not entire websites.
  3. This change affects Google searches from mobile smartphone browsers, not tablet or desktop browsers.
  4. Google Webmaster Tools are your keys to being successful with this algorithm change. They are your friend.

What Does "Mobile-Friendly" Mean to Google?

Google's "mobile-friendly" test checks the following:

  • Text size — is your text too small to read on a mobile device?
  • Links distance — can somebody click on a link without accidentally clicking on something else?
  • Content width — is the content too wide to fit on a smartphone screen?
  • Mobile viewport configuration - A viewport controls how a web page displays on a mobile device. Setting a viewport controls how a page displays on different devices with different screen widths. Without a viewport, mobile devices will display your page at desktop screen width, scaled to fit the screen.

These are the issues you should plan to address if your site is not mobile-friendly.

How to Check the Mobile-Friendliness of Your Site

Google's Mobile Usability feature can help you identify mobile usability issues.

Google offers a few other tools to help you survive its algorithm change:

And if you need help, you can always ask questions (and find answers!) at Google's Webmaster Central Help Forum.

Reality Check

If you haven't even started work on your mobile strategy, don't let these algorithm changes send you into a tizzy. The work that you do to support your mission should not halt or be delayed to fix your website.

However, Mobilegeddon should serve as yet another reminder that you should be thinking about your mobile strategy:

"Those who rely on your nonprofit's services, as well as your donors and volunteers, increasingly expect to use your organization's website on their mobile devices. By prioritizing mobile-friendly websites in search results, 'Mobilegeddon' reminds nonprofits of what we already know: we should provide constituents, donors, and volunteers with a good experience on a nonprofit website regardless of which device they are using,"said Karen Coppock, vice president for strategy at TechSoup.

Furthermore, Google's long-term plans for its algorithm remain unknown, as do the plans for other search engines, such as Bing and Yahoo! Statements made by members of Google's search team indicate that the company is still in an experimental stage with using mobile-friendly criteria in search results. So even if your search results rankings aren't affected by this algorithm change, it is entirely possible that search engines will make mobile-friendliness an increasingly important part of their search rankings in the future.

How TechSoup Can Help You Weather Mobilegeddon

We've got donated and discounted products in our catalog to help you take your nonprofit's website mobile:

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Image: Carlos Urrutia / CC BY-NC-SA