April 9, 2015 | Sarah Sullivan | Digital Strategist

6 Things You Need to Know About Google’s Mobile Friendly Algorithm

On April 21, 2015, Google will be pushing out an update to its algorithm that makes mobile friendliness a ranking factor. The goal of this change is to serve up pages in mobile organic search results that are optimized for viewing on mobile devices. Is your website ready?

Google Mobile Algorithm – The Basics

Keep in mind that “mobile” refers to smart phones, phablets and feature phones, not tablets (for now). Here are the mobile Google algorithm factors:

The algorithm update only affects mobile organic search results
As far as we know, the change affects mobile organic search results only. If your site is doing great in desktop search results but you don’t have a mobile or responsive website at all, you will probably continue to do great on desktop search results. If people navigate directly to your website by inputting the URL in the navigation bar or clicking a link on their phone, your page will still display.

Google mobile algorithm utilizes page-level mobile scoring
Google’s mobile scoring is on a page level, not site level. That means that even if you’re entire site isn’t optimized for mobile, the pages that are can be included in mobile search results.

The search algorithm utilizes real-time mobile scoring
As soon as a page’s mobile optimization is improved and it can be re-crawled by Google, it can be included in the mobile index. Make sure that if you make fixes to your pages to improve their Google mobile-friendly ranking, you manually resubmit those pages for indexing.

The algorithm is binary – your page is either mobile-optimized or it’s not
There’s no middle ground or percentage of mobile-friendliness. Your page is either mobile friendly (and included in the mobile search results) or not.

Google’s mobile friendly search algorithm roll out is worldwide and spans one week
Google will roll-out the mobile algorithm change worldwide starting on April 21, but anticipates the roll out won’t be complete for at least a week.

“Mobile-friendly” does not mean responsive
According to Google, it doesn’t favor responsive websites over .mobile websites. A responsive website does not get a boost in rank over a .mobile website (meaning once with dedicated mobile URLs on a separate mobile website).

Google’s ultimate goal may be to create a separate mobile index to start to display single page application sites and mobile apps. in organic search results
Google has hinted at a potentially seismic shift in mobile search results, including stating that they anticipate this algorithm update to be on par with Penguin and Panda in terms of its impact. Creating a mobile-only index and a new android-based user agent to start to compile single page application sites and mobile apps. in mobile search results would certainly fit the bill!

How do I Make My Website Mobile Friendly for Google?

It’s worth noting how Google interprets web pages to be mobile friendly. This is the list of items that currently comprise Google’s “mobile friendly” labeling and ranking:

  • Whether or not the fonts scale for easy reading on smaller screens
  • If the touch elements, such as buttons, are easy to use and spaced away from other touch elements
  • If the website relies on Flash, which tends to not play well in mobile browsers – Googlebot must be allowed to crawl CSS & JavaScript
  • If you have separate mobile URLs, you must redirect mobile users on each desktop URL to the appropriate mobile URL
  • Avoidance of irrelevant cross-links – This is when users are linked to desktop-optimized pages from the mobile version of the site, and vice versa
  • Slow mobile pages and load time – This one is a little fuzzy. There’s no doubt that slow loading pages create a bad user experience and that page speed is a Google ranking factor. What’s not completely clear at this time is if Google is using mobile page speed as part of its mobile ranking or desktop page speed.

Check out the next post in this series to learn how to test your website to see if it meets Google’s mobile-friendly standards.

Or learn about mobile website design best practices by downloading our white paper. You will learn about:

  • The huge shift towards mobile device use over the last few years and why having a mobile website is so important for your business
  • The pros and cons of different mobile website design approaches
  • How to determine which mobile optimization technique is best for your website.

Other Blog Posts in this Series

Post #2: Is Your Website Mobile Friendly? 3 Ways to Check

Post #3: No Mobile-Friendly Website? No Problem!

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