In past years, when a business owner heard the words “April” and “deadline,” he/she could safely assume the reference was to tax day on April 15. This year, however, there is another date small businesses counted down to: the Google mobile update on April 21. Google mobile updates

On April 21, Google changed its search algorithm so that sites that aren’t mobile-friendly will rank lower in search results vs. those that are optimized for mobile. Google has gone on record saying that this update (dubbed #mobilegeddon on social networks) will have more of an impact on mobile search than Penguin or Panda did when they were released.

If you think you’re off the hook because mobile search doesn’t have an impact on your business, consider the following stats from a Google/Neilsen research study:

  • Half of local searches happen on mobile devices and it’s only increasing.
  • 74% of mobile users begin their search on a search engine (vs. an app or business’s mobile website)
  • 69% expect a business to be within 5 miles of their current location
  • 83% want to buy immediately (within a day)
  • 93% go on to purchase

Currently, there are 182.6 million smartphone users in the U.S. — and that number is forecasted to grow to 220 million by 2018. Ignoring this Google mobile update would be the same as shooting yourself in the foot…right before you run a marathon; if you’re determined (and have a high pain threshold) you can still run, but you’ll be slower and spend a lot of effort trying to catch up with the other runners.

Luckily, there are a few things you check to make sure your business starts off on the right foot (pun intended) for the Google Mobile Update.

1. Take Google’s mobile-friendly test

Google’s mobile-friendly test will analyze your website and tell you if its design is compatible with the algorithm changes.
Google's Mobile Friendly Test

You’ll get one of two responses from the Google mobile update test:

  1. Your site passes! Google will still provide you with some advice on how to make your site even more mobile friendly. The questions they ask you will help the April 21 mobile search algorithm understand your site better.
  2. Your site fails: If your website doesn’t pass, don’t immediately panic! Google has published detailed instructions about how to optimize your website for the mobile update.

2. Google yourself on a mobile device

After passing Google’s mobile-friendliness test, you need to make sure your site shows up correctly in search.

To do this, open a browser on your mobile device and go to the Google homepage. Type in your business’s name and find your website listing. If you see a “mobile-friendly” snippet next to meta description, you are good to go

3. Check for errors in the Google mobile usability report

To check for errors in Google’s mobile usability report, visit Google’s webmaster tools site.

Under the “Search Traffic” section, the tool will show you errors that you need to fix.

It is important to remember that just because your website is mobile-friendly doesn’t mean that you should abandon all your other online marketing and SEO efforts. “Mobile-friendly” only means that website renders well on a mobile device, which is important, but not the only factor that will help you show up on the first page of search results.

Local businesses have an inherent advantage with mobile search: Google gives higher priority to local results when a searcher is on a mobile device. Why? Research shows that mobile searchers expect to receive results that have businesses within 5 miles of their current location. Basically, Google is giving searchers what they want– results that are highly relevant to the searcher at that location and at that point in time.

One of the easiest ways to boost your business’s rankings (including mobile), is to optimize all online directories. If you haven’t done so already, run a free SEO report, which will show you how your business is listed. Repetition and consistency are key to improving your website’s rankings with directories, so if it comes back with errors, you should make it a priority to fix them.