Google’s Mobile Algorithm: What It All Means

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What do we know about it?

Alongside the update, Google delivered an FAQ, which details some specifics about how it works and confirms aspects that were previously hinted at. Some key points from the post include:

  • The update will not have any effect on tablet or desktop searches.
  • It is a page level update, so only mobile-friendly URLs will be positively impacted.
  • Mobile friendliness is determined every time a page is crawled
  • No advantage is passed to responsive sites over those using separate mobile URLs or other ways to deliver mobile-friendly content

Additionally, Google acknowledged that the full impact of the update would not be immediately apparent. This is in line with expectations, as sites will need to be re-crawled and SERPs re-populated before we can begin to ascertain the scope of the update.

Google expects it to take around a week for the dust to settle, at which point we should start to see case studies of both the positive and negative results sites have seen.

Another important point Google made in a separate post is that the update “affects search results in all languages globally”. This had been anticipated and is in stark contrast to slower global roll-outs of previous updates.

What has happened so far?

There has been precious little information across the web regarding the actual impact the update has had so far. Searchmetrics has produced a post detailing some winners and losers, although while some sites conform to pre-release expectations, others do not. We expect trends to become more apparent and well defined in the coming weeks as more sites — and consequently SERPs — are effected.

Interestingly, sites like Indeed have seen significant gains through their implementation of a mobile site over the two weeks prior to the mobile algorithm launch.

Another thought-provoking takeaway from Searchmetrics’ analysis suggests that the update may tie into the local algorithm too, with the Los Angeles Times seeing their greatest increases in mobile search visibility around the LA area.

MozCast is a daily metric run to discover any fluctuations in search results, with higher ‘temperatures’ indicating high levels of fluctuation. The temperature for yesterday was 67°, which wasn’t even the highest temperature in the previous week (79° was reported on the 15th). This suggests that major change has yet to come, although we do expect the update to become more prominent over time.

What can you do?

It is important to reiterate the fact that although ‘judgement day’ has passed, there is still a lot that you can do to both protect your site and capitalise on the update.

As mentioned earlier, mobile friendliness is determined on a page-by-page basis, every time each page is crawled. This gives plenty of scope to rectify issues in future if it is not possible to in the short term. In essence, Google is not looking to penalise anyone with this update; rather, they want to deliver the most accessible pages to mobile users.

The best way to check if your site conforms to Google’s guidelines is to use their mobile friendly test. You can input any page on your site to ensure Google recognises it as being mobile friendly. Recommendations are provided if this is not the case. Alternatively, check your Google Webmaster Tools account to view issues on a domain basis and export lists of URLs with specific problems.

If either of these tools are telling you your site is not mobile friendly, the crawling of elements such as JavaScript or CSS files may be blocked. These need to crawled by Google in order to determine how the pages are displayed, which is the most important factor in mobile friendliness.

As we covered in our recent webinar, there are three major implementations of mobile site to consider:

  • Mobile subdomain
  • Responsive design
  • ReSS (Responsive with server side components)

We advise implementing a responsive design. This only requires one set of URLs and one piece of HTML coding to deliver the site best, meaning that potential redirection issues and other problems are minimised.

Don’t panic if you are currently utilising other methods — no one method will be weighted above another in the algorithm. The main focus is delivering good sites for users; how they are delivered does not matter.

Over the coming weeks, there is bound to be discussion and analysis across the web as the algorithm increases in prominence. We will report any major developments here, so be sure to check back to keep on top of the latest news.

Do you have questions around the update? Need help to ensure your site is kept safe? Get in touch to see what we can do for you.


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