It is a widely know fact that beginning April 21st, 2015 Google will apply new indexing rules that are aimed to change the search algorithm for mobile devices. Olga Karavan from Code Production/EZ-BC will share a few thoughts on how these changes will affect existing Business Catalyst sites and the advantages of a new algorithm you can benefit from when creating new sites.
About the new algorithm
Basically, this update provides for a new algorithm for the websites’ search on mobile devices. It involves additional code standards which make the website mobile-friendly. In other words Google will now promote «mobile-friendly» sites over none mobile-friendly sites if you search from a mobile device.
Moreover, websites where the code meets the new requirements will have a new label next to the site description:
In order to check if your sites meet the new requirements Google has created a Mobile-Friendly Test service where you can check your site for «mobile-friendliness».
How will this affect current sites (including BC) that don’t follow the “new rules”?
Since the new standards relate only to the search results on mobile devices, your BC site will be gradually losing positions in Google Search engine unlike the websites that follow the new rules. This may happen quicker for some sites than for others – everything hinges on the competition level in the segment. It is also worthwhile to mention that despite the fact that the new requirements relate only to the search done on mobile devices, they will also indirectly influence the overall site ranking and desktop search results. If your website is in the high-competition segment I would highly recommend optimizing your site according to the new standards.
What’s the solution? Responsive design!
First and major requirement from Google is that your site has to be responsive. Responsive design is basically a technique that adapts the site layout to the viewing environment by using fluid, proportion-based grids, flexible images and CSS3 media queries. In simple terms, a responsive site has an ability to figure out what resolution of device it's being served on and change the site's behavior accordingly, whether we are talking about resolution, number of columns, image size and so on. For Google the main advantage of the responsive design is that it is using one single HTML structure no matter if the site is mobile, tablet or desktop optimized.
“Mobile-first” – the high-end solution
Google has also integrated an advanced requirement for mobile friendly sites that is called “mobile-first development”. In general the idea of mobile-first is the following: when you develop HTML/CSS for your new responsive site you start from the mobile version as the base version and then create media queries and other responsive design techniques to build tablet and desktop versions accordingly. I apply this technique for the projects we deliver in Code Production but they require separate designs for all 3 versions of the site, which is a hassle for some designers.
What about mobile sites? (Mobile support feature in BC)
Now you may wonder if the new rules apply to Business Catalyst sites that were created with Mobile Support feature enabled where the separate templates are created for «Desktop Content», «Tablet Content» and «Phone Content». Unfortunately they don't… With Mobile Support enabled you basically create different versions of the site pages with their own HTML structure and that is not responsive design. For these sites I highly recommend making them responsive in order to meet the new requirements and, in addition, it will be easier to maintain one single version of the site.
Can an existing Business Catalyst site be optimized to become mobile-friendly?
If your BC site has a moderate and flexible HTML structure that meets major W3C standards then most likely it can be revised to meet the new requirements without much of an effort. It would first have to be made responsive and then a few extra-required tags for “Mobile-friendly” label would have to be added. Unfortunately, for the sites that I personally review and estimate, as a part of Code Production team, most of them do not meet latest HTML/CSS standards and cannot be optimized for the new algorithm. For these sites we would only recommend «reslicing» (creating new HTML/CSS code from scratch) and then further re-implementation into Business Catalyst. I believe this is the most unfortunate part of this new innovation from Google, not only for Business Catalyst sites but also for any site that is not fully responsive. On the other hand, this could be a good extra reason to convince your client to migrate their existing non BC site into Business Catalyst…
If you have any additional questions on this topic, I'll be happy to answer in the comments.
About the Author
Olga Karavan is the Lead Markup Developer and Mentor and Code Production / EZ-BC. With over 5 years development experience Olga has accomplished more than 1,000 web projects and remains the main expert for HTML and CSS at EZ-BC.
For more information about Code Production / EZ-BC visit http://codeproduction.ez-bc.com