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Optimizing Your Online Community for Mobile: Your Battle Guide to Google's Big SEO Change

Written by Katie Oakes on April 21, 2015 at 9:25 AM


The day has arrived "Mobile D-Day" or "Mobile-geddon".

Google has officially dropped their latest search algorithm and it's leaving websites and online communities that are not optimized for mobile devices in its wake. Google gave you plenty of notice. On February 26, 2015, they explains, "This change will affect mobile searches in all languages worldwide and will have a significant impact in our search results."

Here's the bottom line for your online community:

The popular search engine will prioritize mobile-friendly sites on the results page, as well as allow users who are signed in on apps to see content from them in their SERPs (search engine results pages).

The push for mobile-friendly sites has been an ongoing trend in years past. However, Google is giving website owners a gentle shove to comply. SEO is at the forefront of every organization's marketing and engagement strategy.


Online communities rely on search engine optimization (SEO) of publically-viewable blogs, certain open discussions, and those other areas of the community designed to draw new users to their page and capture their interest. Using an online community platform that is not optimized for mobile devices and tablets will decrease how your branded online community is found and potentially hurt new memberships.

What is Google Looking for on Your Online Community Website?

Google's new algorithm is highlighting mobile-friendly websites. However, there are multiple ways to create a mobile friendly site or community. You can use responsive web design that utilizes a single set of code to render your browser-based online community perfectly on mobile devices or you can create a separate community site meant just for mobile devices.

Regardless of your selection, you should take into consideration the following:

  • Keep Data Crawlable: Make sure that when you or your online community software provider are updating the code to your online community that you don't restrict Googlebots from having access to all that the page has to offer. This includes CSS, JavaScript or images. If this type of information is blocked in some way, Google may mark the site as unfriendly and not populate it to the results page appropriately.
  • Don't Frustrate Mobile Users: Not all content loads smoothly on mobile devices. For example, flash videos do not load on mobile devices. This can often frustrate community members when they make it to your online community, then can't fully experience it. They want to enjoy the whole site, not just the portions that their mobile device will load.
  • It's Not Just About A Few Types of Mobile Devices:  While mobile devices are the main target with Google's new algorithm, they are certainly not the only way that people find you in search engines. Make sure to take time to consider configurations for all these devices.
  • Check Everything: Providing a mobile-friendly social community experience is not just about the home page. Take time to check each page of your site and ensure that mobile community members are having the optimal experience.

Tip: Use your analytic data to prioritize. After you test everything out for mobile compatibility, you may have a long list of updates to make. Take the time to prioritize the list and update pages in the order that gets the most views. This way you are making more of an impact with each update.

Is Your Online Community Website Mobile Friendly?

Let's talk protection. The only way to protect your climbing online community engagement metrics is to make sure your community plays well with mobile devices. So just how are you supposed to become mobile friendly? We have collected some resources and best practice tips to help you get there!

  • Google's Mobile-Friendly Tester:   Before you do anything, test your online community website. The old 'If it ain't broke, don't fix it' mantra applies here. Before you freak out, test your site and see where you stand.
  • Google Rules: Check out this situational guide to get started. It is pretty intuitive and should help point you in the right direction, as far as first steps go.
  • Chrome Add-On: Want to see what your customers are seeing when they surf your site with their device? Google's Chrome browser has an add-on that allows you to view a website on any device with one click. This is especially great for those using responsive web design so that you can see how all components of your site display (e.g. menus, navigation, etc.).

Mobile-Friendly Online Community Platform Takeaway

Google is making a critical update to their search engine algorithm on April 21, 2015. This change can impact the search engine rankings of all websites and online communities. Take the time to test your online community's pages to ensure that they are mobile-friendly.

If you find places to further optimize your community, update your content, layout, or online community platform accordingly.

There are great resources available that make the daunting task a much more actionable to-do list. This is a change all website and online community owners must make to continue to get found by members and potential members via Google's search engine.

Use this guide to evaluate, select, and plan a successful online community for your association.

Topics: Communications, Online Community Software, Online Community

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