Greater Than One


Thought Leadership

Filter - April 2015

Google’s New Mobile Search Algorithm Launches April 21

On Feb 26, 2015, Google announced its plan to incorporate more mobile, friendly criteria into its new algorithm launching on April 21, 2015. As more people are now using mobile devices as their primary means for Web access, Google is going to do more to make sure that searchers find mobile-friendly sites and apps.

Google has long advised that sites should be mobile-friendly, and mobile-friendliness criteria have always been worked into previous Google algorithms. But rarely does Google announce a major algorithm change like this one—so we can expect that it will be a significant change.

We already see that mobile rankings vary considerably from desktop, so we expect the rankings to continue to diverge between mobile and desktop. Pages that are not mobile-friendly will probably experience further drops in mobile rankings and therefore mobile traffic. Sites and apps that are mobile-friendly may experience better visibility and traffic as other sites are demoted. In addition, Google has introduced app indexing to allow webmasters to make deep app content more accessible from and more likely to appear in mobile search results.

Google has not said whether the new algorithm will affect desktop searches, but they have said that it will not affect tablet searches, so we could assume that its impact will be limited to mobile. We can also assume that while paid search is not directly impacted, there may be some impact in terms of quality score for mobile ads, perhaps not immediately but in the future. In other words, we may see lower quality scores for landing pages that are not mobile-friendly, which will increase CPC for those ads.

Prepare for the Google Algorithm Change

Here are 3 important things GTO is doing to prepare for and measure the results of the change:

  1. Monitoring mobile rankings and mobile organic search traffic on Google pre- and post-algorithm change. Mobile-friendliness is already one of the criteria we use to evaluate sites and provide recommendations on as part of our SEO evaluations.
  2. Making sure our clients are aware of any mobile issues prior to the change and helping them to get as mobile-friendly as possible as soon as possible.
  3. Offering mobile-usability review services for any sites that are getting updated. For sites we are building, we are making sure we follow Google's mobile-usability guidelines.

GTO’s Best Practices for Mobile

  • While Google says that responsive design does not carry a ranking benefit, we know it is Google's preferred format
  • Mobile-friendliness is determined at the page level, not site-wide, so all pages need to be mobile- friendly
  • Because Googlebot must be allowed to crawl CSS & JavaScript to pass the "mobile-friendly" test, do not block it in robots.txt files
  • Make sure fonts scale for easy reading on smaller screens
  • Make sure touch elements such as buttons are easy to use and spaced away from other touch elements
  • Do not use Flash, as it does not work well in mobile browsers