Google is about to tweak it’s mobile search algorithm in a change that sees it focus more on mobile optimised websites for searches done on a mobile device.

I want to make it clear at this point that this will only effect searches done on a mobile device. There has been no mention from Google that this search will impact searches carried out on a desktop computer or laptop so we’re just talking about searches carried out on a mobile phone.

The impact of this change will be that websites not deemed “mobile friendly” by Google will be demoted on the search engine results in favour of sites that are. If your website is older than a year or more then there’s a very good chance that this is the case for your website.

Do you need to worry about it? It really depends on whether your competitors are mobile friendly yet. If they are then it’s likely that they’re already ahead of you in the search engines anyway as they’ll have a more recent website and are more likely to be marketing their website more actively. To find out, search for your business using a mobile phone and see where you come. If you’re at the top today you may not be tomorrow.

How to get a mobile friendly website

There’s really two options for you if you want to change your website to appeal to Google.

1. Have your current website rebuilt or tweaked to include a responsive style sheet. You may need to speak to your web designer to make this change but if you don’t already have a responsive (a website that changes it’s layout depending on the screen size that’s being used to view it) website then it’s worth investing in one now anyway.

2. Use a second, mobile friendly website alongside your current site. There are a number of providers such as GoMobi that have developed platforms that allow you to create a second website that is optimised for mobile viewing. You then just add a small piece of code to your main website to redirect visitors to the mobile website.

The GoMobi option is great if you’re on a tight budget or tight deadline as it’s quick to get going with and the service provides everything you need to recreate your website in a mobile layout. It’s particularly ideal for local businesses such as retailers, coffee shops, hairdressers, vets, trades etc.

You will hear some SEO people saying that having a duplicate website is bad for your search engine rankings. That’s true, but as long as you tell Google which site is your preferred one (a process they call canonicalization) via their Webmaster Tools then you’ll be fine. Duplicate content issues generally arise when you try to game the Google search algorithm by posting the same content widely across the net so having a single duplicate site designed for mobile viewing is fine.

The thing to do right now is not to panic. With all of these Google updates there’s a lot of scaremongering that goes on ahead of the change but the actual change effects very small numbers of websites. Test your current website using the handy tool that Google have provided. If it fails speak to your website designer about how to make it mobile friendly. If the cost of doing this is too great have a look at GoMobi or other similar services.