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Are You Ready for Google’s “Mobilegeddon?”

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jkocher Jill Kocher, Associate Director, Search Apr. 17, 2015

“Mobilegeddon” hits Google search results on Tuesday, April 21. Whether your business is prepared or not depends entirely on whether Google deems your site mobile friendly.

Google will use mobile friendliness as a ranking signal for the first time on April 21. Search results for searchers on mobile devices will favor mobile-friendly sites, and companies without mobile-friendly sites may be demoted in the rankings. It’s important to note that Google is the sole arbiter of whether your site is mobile friendly or not.

The net-net for brands is that mobile can no longer be ignored or put off as a “some-day” project.

Google’s “mobile-friendly” algorithm update, as it’s officially referred to, is intended to improve the user experience for mobile searchers by promoting sites that offer positive mobile experiences. We’ve all experienced frustrating experiences trying to navigate or purchase on desktop-only sites. Google wants to rank sites with positive mobile experiences higher for mobile searchers, to improve the overall experience of its mobile searchers.

Of course, the flip side of this update is that sites without mobile-friendly experiences can be demoted in Google’s rankings.

The mobile-friendly algorithm update is based on a page-by-page pass/fail test of mobile friendliness. Responsive sites and mobile-specific sites are equally likely to pass the test.

Unlike with some of Google’s updates and penalties, they’ve provided a clear test for mobile friendliness, offered at Google’s Mobile-friendly Test. Each page is judged individually, so if one page fails the rest of the site can still pass. It does mean, however, that you should test not just your homepage but pages from each of your site’s representative templates.

An algorithm update is really just a change in the software that Google uses to determine search results, and Google has shared a couple of the clear rules that apply to this algorithm update:

  • The algorithm update is specific to Google search results.
  • Search results for searchers on desktop devices will not be affected.
  • The algorithm will be applied over a week in every country and language that Google supports.
  • As pages are redesigned to be mobile friendly, they will be eligible to benefit from the algorithm boost as soon as Google discovers the change.
  • This is not a Google penalty, and your site will not be “banned” from Google’s search results if it isn’t mobile friendly. Your site’s pages may experience a demotion in mobile search results rankings until it complies with Google’s mobile-friendly guidelines.

The big question on everyone’s mind is how this will affect MY site’s performance. The answer is different for everyone. If your site has very little mobile search performance today, or if the vast majority of your mobile organic search performance is driven by branded keywords, you may see very little change.

However, if mobile organic search is a stronger source of traffic and conversions, this algorithm update will likely have a larger impact. To learn more about how to determine the impact, see my article in Practical Ecommerce: “SEO: How Google’s ‘Mobile-friendly’ Update Affects Performance.”

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