The search industry will henceforth remember April 21, 2015, as the day that Google finally made mobile a part of its ranking factor in the algorithm. Or what has now affectionately been coined as ‘Mobilegeddon’.
Of the two announcements made on the official Google Webmaster Central blog back in February 2015, the one that had marketers and advertisers doubting the robustness of their mobile sites and scrambling for last minute updates was this:
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 on our search results.
For most, this update will come as no surprise as over the last couple of years, Google has already hinted, assisted, and indeed encouraged webmasters to put an increased focus on their mobile sites and apps. While the details of the update are scarce, Zineb Ait Bahajji of the Google Webmaster Trends team stated at SMX Munich that the algorithm will have a greater impact than Panda (12 per cent of search queries) & Penguin (3.1 per cent of search queries).
This potentially means that over 11 per cent of search results will be impacted.
Keeping in mind that this update will strictly affect mobile queries only (not even tablets) – if your website is already built with mobile in mind (that is, responsive, or mobile friendly/optimized) then the impact of the update will be less painful than for those who have ignored mobile users for the past few years. While the algorithm will begin to roll out tomorrow, the completion may not be for a few weeks, meaning you may not notice the changes initially and not all penalized sites will drop tomorrow.
Here are some things you can do to get your site ready for tomorrow’s update:
The Mobile-Friendliness tool will help you find out if your website meets their mobile requirements and have the “mobile-friendly” tag added in the search results page on mobile devices. The caveat with this tool is that you can only analyze one page at a time.
It is highly recommended that you make use of the free Webmasters Tools suite if you do not already, and if you do the Mobile Usability Report feature will now list out all the mobile usability issues for you to check on.
Whether it’s a 404 or leading to a page that doesn’t load on a mobile device, Google’s number one priority is improving the mobile experience for users. Make sure that pages on your website load properly on mobile devices and minimize any pages that may either be broken or lead to dead pages.
Not every user accessing your site will be doing so with lightning fast 4G speeds—Google realizes this, and slow speeds may mean lower scores. Thankfully Google have also provided a tool with some advice on how to speed your mobile site up.
Duplicate pages have always been a concern for Google and this translates to mobile sites as well. If your mobile site is a subdomain it is advised to use canonical tags to indicate this to Google or any other search engines for that matter. If your site is responsive there will be no need for this.
Google has put together a helpful guide to making your site mobile friendly if you’re using one of the popular CMSs available that will prepare you for the mobile update tomorrow but more importantly optimize for your mobile experience.
For more starters on how to improve their mobile presence, check out Google Developer’s Mobile guide to the common mistakes seen on mobile sites.