Why a change in Google’s search engine could affect Papua New Guinean businesses


Did you miss Google’s ‘Mobilegeddon’ last month? You probably didn’t notice it, but it may already be affecting your business, explains Andrew Wilkins.

Screen Shot 2015-04-22 at 8.00.55 pmHow do people find your business online? Chances are, they find it through a Google search.

The online search engine’s home, google.com, is the world’s most visited website, and the Google name is so synonymous with searching the internet that it has become a genericised verb, like Hoover and Xerox. (‘Genericised’? Google it.)

I got algorithm

Google became number one in internet search because of the famous Google algorithm, the code which decides what results come up when you do an online search.

The internet’s secret sauce, Google’s algorithm is a closely guarded piece of intellectual property. Unlike secret sauce, however, its recipe changes regularly.

For many businesses, coming top of Google’s search results can be critical.

Google often tweaks its algorithm, ostensibly to improve the chances of you finding more precisely what you need when you do a search.

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In recent years, for instance, Google has tweaked its algorithm to favour websites with high quality content, and to try and avoid those sites that have just been created as platforms for aggressive advertising.

For many businesses, coming top of Google’s search results can be critical. Every time the algorithm changes, the webmasters of the world have to catch up. Hence Search Engine Optimisation—the dark art of making your website attractive to Google.

Search on mobiles

Which is where ‘Mobilegeddon’ comes in.

Last month, Google changed its algorithm once more, this time to favour websites that are ‘legible and usable on mobile devices’.

Now, therefore, if someone is searching Google on their smartphone or tablet, your site is more likely to come higher in the search results if it’s mobile-friendly.

‘If your site’s pages aren’t mobile-friendly, there may be a significant decrease in mobile traffic from Google Search’

Ominously, the reverse is also true:

‘If your site’s pages aren’t mobile-friendly, there may be a significant decrease in mobile traffic from Google Search,’ warns the online giant.

Hence ‘Mobilegeddon’, the online ‘apocalypse’ for unfriendly websites.

What is mobile-friendly?

So, how do know if your website is mobile-friendly? Well, Google have helpfully created a test here.

Pass the test and you can relax—for now. Fail the test, and it may be time to start planning the next upgrade of your site.

Mobile-friendly can involve having a cut-down ‘mobile’ version of your site, which is automatically shown to visitors when they access your site from a mobile device. Or, it could mean having a site with a ‘responsive’ design, which automatically morphs your full website for the screen it is being viewed on (the Airways Hotel website is a good example of a responsive design in PNG).

Either way, it’s about having a website that is easy to use when viewed on both large and small screens.

Who passes Google’s test in Papua New Guinea?

Here are some websites of PNG-focused businesses and organisations that pass Google’s mobile-friendly test.

The world’s gone mobile

There would appear to be sound reasons for Google’s latest tweak. Worldwide, more and more internet searches—almost half by some figures—are being conducted on mobile devices.

This is likely to be far greater in Papua New Guinea, where a million plus Papua New Guineas have a mobile phone (not all of which can browse the web, admittedly) but only tens of thousands have access to fixed line internet.

If this all seems intimidating, don’t panic. Your site won’t suddenly disappear from search results altogether: mobile-friendliness is just one of the criteria Google uses to assess where to send users of its search engine.

That said, if your competitor has a mobile friendly site and you don’t, don’t be surprised to see them above you in the search rankings.

Andrew Wilkins is Publishing Director at Business Advantage International, publishers of www.businessadvantagepng.com.

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