April 21st, 2015 – The Mobile Apocalypse?

Remember the upheaval caused by Google’s Panda or Penguin algorithm updates?  Zineb Ait Bahajji, a member of Google’s Webmaster Trends team, said at SMX Munich that the latest algorithm change will have even more impact on search rankings than either Panda or Penguin ever had.

What is this new algorithm?

At the end of February, Google executives made a big announcement about the next algorithm change that will affect search engine rankings starting on April 21st. “We will be expanding our use of mobile-friendliness as a ranking signal,” Google announced. They added, “This change will affect mobile searches in all languages worldwide and will have a significant impact in our search results.”

What does this mean?

First, a business that does not have a dedicated mobile site, mobile app, or mobile-responsive web design will lose its current ranking, potentially falling to virtual obscurity.

Second, “Worldwide” means that the algorithm update affects mobile searchers and search results in all countries at the same time, rather than just rolling out in the U.S. first.

Third, the mobile-friendly update affects mobile search results – i.e., searches from smartphones’ and tablets – not searches conducted on a desktop or laptop computer.

In late March, during a Google+ Hangout titled ‘Q&A session for mobile-friendly ranking change’, Google’s staff claimed the following:

  1. It will take a week rollout the algorithm.
  2. You are either mobile-friendly or not – there will be no “degrees of mobile-friendliness” in this algorithm.
  3. It will be on a page-by-page basis. Therefore, if mobile usability issues affect only a few pages, you should not receive a site-wide penalty. This also means you do not have to worry about making your site 100% mobile-friendly by the April 21st deadline. You may decide to prioritize the optimization of problem pages based on their importance or existing search visibility.
  4. It will be on real-time basis. This means Google will take into account changes to your website as soon as it crawls the modified page. It does not mean you will instantly receive better rankings if you make recommended improvements. If it typically takes a long time for Google to crawl your site, you need to work even faster to ensure your site is ready in time.

Why is Google rolling out the new algorithm?

According to a Google survey, 94 per cent of people use a mobile phone to get local information and the vast majority of those searches take place at home or at work, despite it being likely the person searching could do so on a desktop computer.

According to the survey, 73 percent of web users prefer mobile-friendly websites and 61 percent leave a site if it is not mobile-friendly. 73 percent of mobile searches trigger a call or a visit to a business.

How do you find out if your site is mobile friendly?

The quickest way to check if Google considers a page to be, mobile-friendly is to use Google’s Mobile-Friendly Test tool which is found at https://www.google.com/webmasters/tools/mobile-friendly/.


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Figure 1- Mobile Test

If found mobile-friendly, the page will appear in Google’s mobile search results with a mobile-friendly label, and receive a ranking boost. Above is www.mysitevitals.com‘s mobile friendly test pass.

The Mobile-Friendly Test tool is great for quick checks. However, for an in-depth, whole-site review, you will need to have Google Webmaster Tools set up.

Within Webmaster Tools, you will find the mobile usability report. This scans your website for usability errors, and then presents all the problems found, along with the number of pages affected.

What do you do if your site is not mobile friendly?

If your site is already mobile-friendly, you will not have much to worry about. However, if you have not yet implemented a mobile strategy for your online presence, Google has a guide to creating mobile-friendly sites.

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