Every now and again Google launches a major update to its famous search engine algorithm. This is the formula which analyses every web page and determines the search results we’re offered upon searching the web.
Major updates to this algorithm always affect search results significantly.
Google’s Panda Update of 2011 targeted websites with poor quality content. The Penguin Update arrived in 2012 and amongst many other measures, targeted websites with poor quality, bad or artificially created links.
These (and many other updates) continue to be tweaked all the time.
The mobile-friendly ranking algorithm
Now Google is turning its attention towards a new factor: mobile-friendliness. This new update to the algorithm will be introduced on 21 April 2015.
This time, Google will be analysing how mobile friendly a web page is when deciding the order of its search results. Logically, this is only likely to affect searches on mobile devices initially but exactly how it pans out, nobody knows.
We’ve already seen a strong indicator of this new strategy; just recently Google has started displaying ‘Mobile – friendly’ in light grey text, in front of search results. This enables Google’s customers (people searching the web) to consider whether a website will be easy to read on their device, as well as relevant.
From 21 April, the order of search results will be affected too and this has implications for every website owner.
What is ‘mobile friendly’?
Mobile friendly websites are responsively designed, i.e. the content and style of each page is designed to adapt appropriately to the screen size of the device being used – this includes everything from mobile phones up to whopping great big monitors and televisions. Typically it affects things like layout, navigation and font sizes.
We’ve been designing responsive websites for the past few years. Initially it was an optional extra but increasingly it’s becoming a standard inclusion. We wrote at length about Responsive Design back in 2013.
Most website owners will already be aware if their website is responsively designed. But in case you need a definitive answer, Google has provided a Mobile-Friendly Test Page [NB: we’re guessing that because of heavy usage, it seems to crash quite frequently at the moment].
Your website is either mobile-friendly or it’s not.
There’s nothing in between, as far as this algorithm is concerned.
If your website isn’t mobile-friendly, you need to consider how this update will affect your business. If lots of your traffic from Google comes from mobile devices and your website isn’t mobile-friendly, be prepared to lose traffic.
Making a website responsive isn’t a minor upgrade. It often means redesigning the website afresh (from the bottom up) and therefore, it’s a significant undertaking.
Regardless of your own opinions on mobile browsing, statistics clearly show that mobile browsing is growing in usage all the time. Google’s latest algorithm update is set to reward responsive websites (and penalise others).
If you haven’t already considered your own strategy, this is the time to act.