Google Has Revamped Their Search Algorithm To Favor Mobile-Friendly Sites

There’s no mistaking the fact that Google is driving the mobile revolution. Google is the world’s largest mobile platform provider (Android). Google is also the world’s largest mobile search provider. Google has the largest mobile app store. In other words, Google gets to make the calls on mobile.

But things are getting even bigger. Google isn’t satisfied with the biggest piece of the pie for devices, search, and apps. They might eventually own the airwaves, too (maybe). The purpose of this article is to tell you what’s going down with Google’s mobile stance & recent search algorithm change, and what you need to do in response.  If you don’t want to figure this out for yourself, call Vertx Marketing today (808.446.3664).  We are experienced in designing mobile-friendly websites and are ready to assist you with this transition.

If you haven’t heard already, on April 21, 2015, Google rolled out their most significant mobile algorithm change to date.  This change affects anyone that owns a website that is not currently mobile friendly.  So what is a mobile-friendly website?  Thankfully, it’s pretty easy to find out. Just run your website through Google’s Mobile-Friendly Test page.

Unfortunately, the test is not without its flaws. Google admits it with its prominent placement of a feedback form. (The issues have prompted some robust discussion in the Google Product forums.) Nonetheless, the mobile friendly test is generally a useful gauge of a site’s mobile performance.

Another method of checking your site is to search for it on your mobile device. If the SERP entry bears the “mobile friendly” label, then you’re in Google’s good graces.

Finally, you should run your site through Google’s Mobile Usability Report (in Google Webmaster Tools) to discover any relevant recommendations that will improve mobile use.  Further, more information on the algorithm change is documented below:

The Algorithm Assesses Each Page Individually

A notable feature of the mobile algorithm is that it analyzes mobile compatibility on a page-by-page basis, rather than a website-wide basis. This announcement came from Google’s Gary Illyes during his SMX West presentation and was areported by Search Engine Land.

What does this mean practically? If your site has some mobile-optimized pages, but some non-optimized pages, then Google will look at them separately and promote the one that is optimized. They won’t “penalize” (if that’s the right term) an entire site based on the off chance that a few pages aren’t optimized.

Realistically, though, if a site is responsive and well-designed, then this shouldn’t be too much of an issue. I’m sure there are some sites with a few optimized pages and a few that aren’t, but generally speaking, an entire site is either mobile friendly or not.

The Algorithm Operates In Real-Time

Obviously, Google can only assess a site’s mobile friendliness when it crawls the page and indexes it for search. At this point, your site is scored. If the page is not mobile friendly on April 21, but becomes mobile-friendly on May 21, then we can assume that Google’s next crawl should be able to identify it as such.

What’s Good For Desktop Is Also Good For Mobile…Sort Of

An additional insight from Google’s John Mueller is that Google mixes some of the desktop and mobile ranking signals. Page speed, for example, is blended in its impact on both desktop and mobile search. Additionally, it seems true that Google’s top heavy algorithm also shares the desktop/mobile impact.

We can safely assume that some of the features that are good for desktop are equally good for mobile, assuming the page has a mobile-friendly design. But keep in mind that the algorithm may begin to differentiate the various factors that are currently bundled as one and the same. Because of the vastly different platforms, load time, layout, etc., between desktop and mobile, it would make sense for it to do so.

Apparently, Google is experimenting with different algorithm signals that are device-dependent.

App Indexing Is Now Factored Into Search Results

App indexing is a new feature of the algorithm that will be exclusive to sites with associated Android apps. This feature is already in play, according to Google Webmaster Central:

Starting today, we will begin to use information from indexed apps as a factor in ranking for signed-in users who have the app installed. As a result, we may now surface content from indexed apps more prominently in search.

The purpose of this feature is probably to tighten the connection between mobile search and mobile application. Eventually, there will probably be little distinction between the two. Bridging the gap via search is a logical choice. Google recommends the following steps in order to facilitate app indexing:

   Add deep link support and specify how to reach specific content within your app.

   Verify your app’s official website on Google Play Console.

   Provide deep links for each web page that has a corresponding deep link, either on each page of your website or in your sitemaps.

   Check for errors in Webmaster Tools so you can fix them.

Conclusion: What Should You Do About It?

Though it may be onerous to kowtow, you’re going to have to adapt in the new mobile-centric digital marketing universe. Right now, Google leads the way. They’ve given the command — we have to follow.

1   As a first course of action, make your website mobile friendly. Responsive is best.

2   Second, address any mobile usability issues in Google Webmaster Tools.

3   Third, if you have an Android app associated with your site, get it deeplinked and indexed as soon as possible.

If you need any advice or assistance to quickly convert your site to a mobile friendly version, please call us today.  We’re ready to serve you!