Publishers Getting Left Behind on Mobile

Expert publishing blog opinions are solely those of the blogger and not necessarily endorsed by DBW.

Google publishers direct-to-consumer search SEO

Source: aradaphotography /

Did you feel it? Did you feel the change?

If you’re in the publishing world there’s a chance you didn’t. One reason for that could be you’ve been existing on the industry’s shifting sands for a while now. Maybe you’ve grown so used to change that it doesn’t even phase you anymore.

But I don’t think that’s it.

I think the reason you may not have noticed is that it’s universal—set to impact every industry, every business, every website, everywhere. But I have a feeling it will hit book publishers a little harder than others.

The change I’m talking took place just a few weeks ago, on February 26, when Google announced that on Apri 21 it will be rolling out a new version of its search algorithm, which determines what shows up when you or I or anyone searches for something online.

And what is all the more incredible is that Google announced its algorithm change ahead of time.

Until now, the company has never given advance notice before a change of such magnitude goes live, and even afterwards Google doesn’t always comment on what happened. It’s usually up to us professionals to figure out what Google has done, by analyzing the changes that we (or our clients) are seeing in traffic to our sites and revenue from our customers’ online purchases. And only then can we try to figure out what needs to be done to adjust to the impact.

You see, the world has already gone mobile. But you probably knew that already. Chances are, about a third or more of you are actually reading this on a mobile device. Here at Biztegra we have clients who are seeing up to (and sometimes more than) 50% of their traffic and online revenue from mobile.

If you ask me, the fact that Google made the announcement it did must mean that this is going to change things dramatically and confirms that it also sees the mobile boom as a massive, inexorable shift that’s already well underway.

If you’re a publisher whose online presence isn’t up to the task of delivering content to a mobile device, and if your site looks the same regardless of the platform someone is using to view it—seamlessly—your search rankings are going to take a hit. I’m guessing a big hit.

But don’t take it from me; take it from Google:

Starting April 21, we will be expanding our use of mobile-friendliness as a ranking signal. This change will affect mobile searches in all languages worldwide and will have a significant impact in our search results. Consequently, users will find it easier to get relevant, high quality search results that are optimized for their devices (my emphasis).

The shift is an acknowledgment of the ways readers and shoppers are now experiencing content and making purchases. It’s a push to make mobile responsiveness the new normal for everyone (including publishers) because mobile access already is normal for consumers.

Chances are if you are a small to mid-size publisher, your site was already out of date. It probably isn’t optimized for search or for social, and it certainly isn’t responsive. I know this because in my research for clients and in preparing late last year for a series of webinars and presentations I spent a lot of time searching for exemplary sites that are fully responsive. And the vast majority of publishers’ websites I looked at weren’t ready. And this was in December—already three months ago.

So what can you do to get your own site up to speed in time for Google’s algorithm change?

First, utilize Google’s free tools to find out how mobile ready/responsive your site is. I would suggest doing the test on your homepage and also on a book page.

In fact, go ahead and check now. I’ll wait.

What were the results? If both pages came back with the message, “Awesome! This page is mobile-friendly,” then congratulations! You’re already part of the way there. You now need to go and optimize everything else on your site.

But if you got a message saying something like, “Not mobile-friendly,” you have some serious considerations and decisions ahead of you.

What are your options? Depending on whether you have a responsive site or not, it may be time to bite the bullet and get a new one altogether.

Especially if you’re thinking about building out a direct-to-consumer focus for your publishing business, there couldn’t be a better time to start fresh than right now, before all your competitors start preparing for Google’s approaching algorithm shift.

Launching a new website or upgrading your old one doesn’t need to be a cataclysmic event, though it’s certainly a big undertaking. I’ve written previously about three steps publishers can take to begin moving toward a direct-to-consumer approach, saying, “It all starts with a great website that helps readers discover your titles in an increasingly crowded and competitive digital marketplace.”

Becoming mobile responsive is now one of the key criteria for creating that great website. It’s no longer a choice; it’s a requirement.

In the meantime, let me know in the comments below what your results were when you checked your site against Google’s mobile tools.

3 thoughts on “Publishers Getting Left Behind on Mobile

  1. Calee

    Xist Publishing scored an awesome! after a redesign we put in place earlier this year. The website is such a chicken/egg scenario in my mind. Its hard to justify the resources to improve it but without improvement, it won’t ever pay off.

  2. Murray Izenwasser

    Good for you Calee!! Yes, it is always a trade off – and I get it – you need to justify the spend based on revenue for which you need to justify the spend …

    At some point every publisher will need to decide whether they want a D2C program, and if not, what their model will be for the future.

  3. James

    Google has long been emphasizing on the need for a mobile responsive website status to publishers and webmasters.
    Going by statistics and facts available to me, I can assure you that the algorithm is already at work. Mobile responsiveness is one of the major and most important ranking factors at the moment.
    Thanks for sharing, its a great reminder to everyone that is serious about their online business.



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