The wrath of Google's Mobilegeddon is about to hit Kiwi companies - are you ready?

Google's deadline for websites to be mobile-friendly is a day away -- on April 21. Yet one in four of NZ’s 50 best known retail brands do not meet Google's new set of requirements. What does being 'mobile-friendly' mean?

Thousands of Kiwi companies’ websites will fail Google’s mobile readiness test. This will push them into obscurity in the nether regions of search rankings in the era of Mobilegeddon or Mobilepocaplyse.

Mobilegeddon’ or ‘Mobilepocaplyse’ is the name given to the April 21 deadline issued by global search engine giant Google for companies to make their websites friendly for mobile users.

Sites which are not mobile friendly will fall in Google’s search rankings, meaning companies will find their webpages buried deeper in cyberspace when customers conduct searches.

According to Auckland-based marketing consultant Fleur Revell from Impact PR, one in four of NZ’s 50 best known retail brands failed to meet Google's new requirements.

"We applied the test to 50 of New Zealand’s largest blue chip companies and another 50 of the largest retailers, and found many of them had not yet adapted their sites to fit Google’s requirements," she says.

Why Kiwi companies should take note

Two thirds of adults in NZ own a smartphone and around 50 percent of search engine queries originate from mobile phones.

"Despite the light hearted terminology used by tech commentators globally, this algorithm update is expected to hit search engine rankings hard and has the potential to impact the bottom line for thousands of local businesses,” Revell says.

With mobile search driven foot traffic becoming a key driver of sales, those failing to meet Google’s test will be hardest hit.

Google had back in February notified web builders of the change in rankings involving mobile-friendly websites. But Revell says not all small businesses have the resources to comply.

She adds that New Zealand businesses are not alone in being under prepared for the coming deadline with many high profile international brands also reportedly failing the test.

You can test your website on its readiness for mobile users on this Google page. To qualify, your page must be crawl-able by Googlebot. (Our readers will be pleased to know Idealog passed the test!) 

A mobile-friendly site, screenshot captured by Google

According to Venture Beat, even if your website passes the mobile-friendly tag, some improvements might still be needed.

First, test your site in Google’s PageSpeed Insights test to get a full picture of issues that might affect search rankings.

What constitutes ‘mobile-friendly’

Venture Beat says Google considers a page “mobile-friendly” if it does the following:
1) Uses text that is readable without zooming
2) Sizes content to fit the screen, so users don’t have to scroll horizontally or zoom
3) Avoids software that isn’t necessarily supported on mobile devices (e.g. Flash)
4) Spaces links far enough apart that the correct one can be easily tapped.

How to configure your site

To be deemed mobile-friendly, your site must be configured in one of the following ways, according to Venture Beat:
1) Responsive web design: Google recommendation is: a responsive site uses the same HTML and URL across devices and renders the appropriate display for the user’s device through CSS.
2) Dynamic serving: This configuration entails using the same URL but a different version of HTML to serve different device types.
3) Separate URLs: This method serves different code to different devices using separate URLs, by employing HTTP redirects.

Don't replicate your desktop version

Search Engine Journal’s advice is not to make your mobile site an exact replica of your desktop version.

“Take the time to make a mobile site that prioritizes user-experience. Information can be better explained on mobile platforms with a scaled-back design suited to smaller display screens.”

Mobile content providers should also be assigning a system to grade the relevance of content, with those ranked no 1 as must-have, and others to be included only when there is space, the Journal says.