Postpone Google’s Mobile SEO April Deadline until Your Website is Redesigned

By Gregory Lee in Industry News, SEO, Web Development on March 30th, 2015

On April 21, mobile SEO will become a Google ranking factor. This means that, when smartphone users search, any websites that aren’t mobile-friendly will be penalized. So the choice is either to redesign your site per those mobile SEO guidelines, or lose a big chunk of traffic. The problem is website redesign and SEO can be costly and take a dedicated team many months to complete. But our Atlanta-based mobile web development and SEO team has the goods on a stopgap strategy that’ll let you postpone the launch of a fully redesigned mobile site and still keep your Google ranking.


Mobile Website Redesign for SEO Often Leads to This Line of Thought

You want to make your site mobile friendly, but you have questions:

  • Shouldn’t we also refresh the look and feel of the whole website?
  • If we do a redesign, should we also remove old content?
  • If we edit some content, should we update all content?
  • Won’t drastic changes to content affect our SEO?

CMOs, online marketing VPs and the like often take an all or nothing approach: they feel if they do anything major to the site, they should also knock out content analysis, SEO and a redesign at the same time for efficiency’s sake. But, while it might be ideal to take on a complete redesign, it might not fit your current marketing budget.

And as endless statistics show, responsive design is one of the most important ways to optimize your site for mobile. (We’ll go into a little more detail about what Google says about responsive design later in this post.) But beyond responsive design, there are a few technical mobile SEO details you need to incorporate to pass Google’s algorithm. That’s because a deep dive into Google’s guide to mobile-friendly websites requires more than just a decent mobile user experience; Google requires full-on mobile SEO, including:

  • A mobile XML sitemap submitted to Google
  • A correct pattern of canonical tags
  • Certain meta tags
  • And various elements a user will never see 

Google requires you to tag and optimize your site specifically for its search engine so that it can easily verify that it’s developed mobile friendly.

google mobile seo

Unless you are in the final phases of SEO redirects, tagging and preparing to launch your newly mobile-friendly site, there is no way to complete this all by April 21st. So what options do you have?

Option 1: BKV’s Mobile SEO Stopgap Strategy

We recommend beginning with a mobile content analysis. For instance, this ComScore study shows mobile device usage is higher in the early morning, but overtaken by PCs during the workday. A common theory is that people are doing initial research on their phones during the morning and coming back during the day to finish research or pull the trigger (fill out a form, purchase, etc.) from their PC.

daily device preferences

But this is a generalization and may not be true with your website. So it’s important to track mobile usage in your conversion funnel as well as site engagement and acquisition. Looking at this data before April 21st will help determine a baseline for your current mobile usage. You can then rank what content needs to be mobile-optimized to continue enjoying your level of mobile activity after the Google mobile SEO penalty has gone live.  

Your mobile content analysis gives you a sliding scale to decide which pages to include in your stopgap mobile site and which traffic or activities you’re willing to give up to reduce the cost and timeline. Since the idea is only to stanch the bleeding from Google’s mobile friendly algorithm penalty, you only need to create the mobile-optimized pages necessary to maintain your previous mobile organic traffic flow, plus whatever is minimally required for those visitors to perform their most important engagement and conversion tasks. You’ll also need to provide an XML mobile sitemap and all technical SEO required by Google’s new mobile SEO guidelines.  

Our mobile website development and SEO team uses an inexpensive solution to sustain your organic search mobile traffic while you take the necessary time and resources to develop a fully redesigned mobile-friendly site.

Since the Google algorithm only penalizes non-mobile friendliness on a page-by-page basis, and since it only penalizes those pages in searches from mobile devices, it’s possible to review your website analytics history to determine which pages and actions are most crucial to your mobile audience—and to Google.

This means you can create just a short list of pages critical to mobile SEO. You can then build a mobile optimized version of just these pages. Even better, it’s a project you can scale at a cost you can afford right now while pushing it live in a month or two.

Option 2: Full Website Redesign, Analysis and SEO

Obviously, a stopgap mobile website is not going to cut it long term. It’s only meant to be a temporary solution to avoid being dinged by Google until you have the time and budget for a full redesign. As mentioned before, responsive is our recommended configuration for a mobile website. Of the available mobile options (responsive, dynamic or separate m-dot pages), a responsive site is easiest to maintain, less complicated, less error prone and Google-preferred for ease of indexing and ranking.

However, a hybrid of dynamic and responsive may work best in some situations. Google’s Mobile SEO Guide section on configuration gives a nice explanation of these three types of mobile configurations.  Page 5 of this Google whitepaper, Building Websites for the Multi-Screen Consumer, gives pros and cons for each, and plenty of SEO tips. But the takeaway is that Google prefers the mobile and desktop URLs to be the same, and to serve the same HTML content on those URLs.

URL Multi screen consumer


Now that you know your options, do you know which approach is most reasonable for your brand? Consider current budget limitations and overall company position. Can you handle a full mobile redesign right now? If you can't, the stopgap method might be a perfect option.

Need help? Google’s deadline is fast approaching, don’t get penalized on April 21!

Contact BKV’s experts to get your strategy started.