Prepping For The Mobile Apocalypse

How to tell if your site is ready for the Google mobile algorithm update, and estimate the impact if you are not.

Mobile update April 21 2015People have been predicting The End Of The World As We Know It (TEOTWAWKI in prepper-speak) for as long as history has been recorded. Of course, many of doomsayers have been vague about their predictions, using phrases like “The end is near!” and “Judgment is at hand!” without actually giving a date for the big event. But unlike the non-specific warnings of impending world-wide doom, the date for the mobile SEO day of reckoning has been pegged on the calendar: April 21, 2015.

Google made the announcement on their Webmaster Central Blog that starting on April 21st they will roll out an algorithm update that includes a website’s Mobile Friendliness as a ranking factor. And for the last month since that post went live the SEO world has been buzzing about what it means and how significant the impact will be.

While some have discounted the date and the impact the update will have, many more have taken note that this is the first time Google has announced in advance a specific date that a new ranking factor will go into effect. Given that, it seems safe to assume that they expect the update will shake things up in the search results, and want people to be prepared. If nothing else, it makes the statement that Google expects people to take mobile search results seriously.

How To See If Your Dental Website Is Mobile Ready

“How long since your last visit to the dentist?” I hate getting asked that question, because I know the look I will get when I tell them it has been longer than the recommended 6 months since my last checkup. “How often do you floss?” frequently comes next, followed by deepening shame. I know they know the answer to both those questions before they ask them, and the reason they are asked is to help prod me towards proper oral health habits.

mobile friendly dental websitesWith this algorithm update I get the opportunity to turn the tables and put the dentists on the spot. “How long since your last SEO checkup?” and “How often do you update the content on your website?” are the questions I will lead with. And don’t even think about lying, because the copyright notice on the footer of your site says 2012. We have ways of knowing the answers to those questions before we ask.

The answer to the $64,000 question of “Is my website ready for the mobile algorithm update?” is easy to determine. All you have to do is drop your website address into Google’s Mobile-Friendly Tester and let them answer for you.

If all goes well, and if your website is either responsive (meaning it will resize itself properly on smaller devices) or has a mobile optimized version (a separate site specifically designed for mobile devices) then you will see something similar to the image on the right. You can relax, stop worrying about losing all your patients on April 21st, and get a good night’s sleep.

But if you get a negative result – a Not mobile-friendly warning followed by failed items like “Text too small to read”, “Links too close together”, and “Uses incompatible plugins” – then you need to assess the potential impact and the costs to fix the issues with your site.

What If You Are Not Mobile Friendly On April 21st?

Before undertaking any form of treatment it is important to understand both the cost of a cure and also the cost of doing nothing. The fix for a mobile-unfriendly site might be as simple as installing a plugin, or as complex as a complete site redesign. It really depends upon the structure and design of your current practice website, and the components that are causing Google to fail your content.

Contacting your web designer is the first step to take in figuring out a path to a solution. The people who built your site should have a good understanding of its structure, and what is necessary to bring it into compliance. If you don’t have a designer, or if you want a second opinion, feel free to contact DDSRank for a free analysis.

Estimating the cost of not updating your site is something you can do yourself. All you need to know are some target search keywords for your market, and how well you rank for them, and you can let Google tell you how badly you will get hit if your mobile rankings drop.

Of course, if your site doesn’t currently rank for any dental search terms in Google the update won’t hurt you at all, for the same reason a cavity doesn’t bother a cadaver – because the patient is already dead. In that case you need to look into a dental SEO campaign to breathe some life into your site. Studies show that 75% of Americans now use the Internet to find local services, and that includes people searching for a dentist. If your site doesn’t show up in Google, your practice might as well not exist.

Estimating The Impact Of Mobile Searches

dental search keywordsIf you have an SEO company working for you, or if you are trying to rank your dental practice website yourself, you should have a list of target search keywords for your area. If not, typical popular targets include “dentist CITY”, “CITY dentist”, “dentist in CITY ST”, and various similar combinations. Specific services like dental implants, teeth whitening, and others can also be used with the city and state combinations.

Once you have your list of search terms you can drop them into the Google AdWords Keyword Planner to see how much search volume they get. Take the option to “Get search volume for a list of keywords” and enter in your list.

Once Google returns the search volume (our example shows Houston keywords get quite a bit of traffic) you can start to see the impact losing your rankings will have on new visitors to your site. But this doesn’t tell the whole story.

In the initial announcement, Google said the following: “This change will affect mobile searches in all languages worldwide and will have a significant impact in our search results.” The results displayed by the Keyword Planner show the total traffic for searches across all devices. But Google said that only mobile searches will be affected by the update, so we need to see what percentage of the total comes from mobile devices. Checking the Mobile Trends box will show you the breakdown:

Mobile dental website searches

The green bars show what percent of the total searches come from mobile devices. The numbers are not broken out for each keyword below, but running your mouse over a green bar will show what percentage of the monthly total are mobile searches. For this collection of keywords the average is about 25%. That means for the keyword “Houston dentist” approximately 220 of the 880 monthly searches would not see a mobile unfriendly site after April 21st. In our experience those numbers are about average. Chicago, for example, averages about 20% mobile on the top searches, while in Atlanta in February they were over 40%.

The method above is a way to estimate the potential loss of traffic if your site is not mobile-friendly come April 21st. Of course, to get a better picture you would need to figure out which keywords you actually rank for now. SEMRush is a good (but not free) tool for finding those keywords. Then, once you know your rankings, you need to apply click-through rate (CTR) percentages to calculate a more precise number for your site. These rates differ for mobile and desktop searches, so make sure you are using the right tables in calculating your specific numbers.

Regardless of how your specific calculations turn out, the reality is that more and more people are utilizing mobile devices to search for local goods and services. Even if you survive the algorithm update on April 21st, Google has made it clear that their focus on mobile is only going to increase. In many ways they have done us all a favor by putting a specific date on this update, but it is likely that future changes will come unannounced. As the old proverb states, ‘Forewarned is forearmed‘.