How Google’s Mobile-Friendly Algorithm Update Affects Your Website & How to Prepare

By March 23, 2015 No Comments

In order to stay on top of Google search results and ahead of your competition, it’s crucial to be up to date on Google’s algorithm standards and changes. Several times a year Google makes updates to it’s algorithm (a complex formula of rankings factors that identify and select websites to rank for specific searches), and they’re about to make one of the biggest updates yet.

Recently, Google announced that it plans to update its algorithm to serve mobile searchers more effectively. Starting on April 21, Google will roll out a major algorithm change that will favor mobile-friendly sites over non mobile-friendly ones.  Zineb Ait Bahajji from Google’s Webmasters Trends team stated that the impact of this update with have an even bigger effect than the Google Panda and Penguin updates did. And trust me…those were big!

What Google’s Mobile-Friendly Update Means for You:

Google mobile update

  • If your site lacks mobile-friendly characteristics, Google will favor other mobile-friendly sites over yours when people are searching on mobile devices.
  • If you have an indexed app, Google will be serving up information from your app in search results to signed-in users that have the app installed and you will be ranked in search results according to that information.


Ways to Improve the Mobile-Friendliness of Your Website:

Allow Googlebot Access to JavaScript, CSS & Image Files

Make sure you allow Googlebot (Google’s web crawling bot) access to your Javascript, CSS and image files used on your website. This will allow Google to crawl these properties and help index your content correctly for better overall rankings.

Accurate Redirects

When you have mobile URLs separate from your desktop URLS, you should redirect mobile visitors on each desktop URL to the corresponding mobile URL. For example, automatically redirecting mobile users to your homepage regardless of the page they originally requested would be a no-no.

No Mobile-Only 404s

Make sure you aren’t showing mobile users 404s for pages that work on the desktop version. If your mobile site doesn’t have an equivalent page to the desktop version, keep users on the desktop page and ensure that it is responsive.

On-Site App Download Messaging

Avoid using pop-up messaging on your mobile website that promotes your mobile app because this can cause issues with Google’s indexing and make the user experience unpleasant for visitors. Instead, use inline, banner messages to promote your app to keep from disrupting usage.

Fast Loading Mobile Pages

Make sure that your mobile site loads quickly, otherwise your visitors will be gone as fast as they came. Use Google’s PageSpeed Insights to see if there are any issues with your pages loading in a timely manner.

Related Cross-Links

Check your links on both your desktop and mobile websites. Make sure that your cross-links are going to the appropriate, corresponding website, i.e. a link on a mobile web page goes to another page on the mobile website, not mobile page to desktop page.

Playable Content

If your website features videos and other playable content, make sure that your media is playable on mobile devices. This includes media that requires Flash and licensed constrained media.

Large, Readable Text

Clearly, because mobile screens are much smaller than desktops (unless you have an iPhone 6, you might feel differently), you should make sure that your content can be easily read when viewed on mobile devices.

Spacing Between Links

Even the slimmest fingers sometimes have trouble clicking on links on phones and tablets.  Allow for extra spacing between links to make it easier for users to navigate.

If you’re not sure how your site measures up to Google’s mobile standards, run it through a quick test using this mobile-friendly checker. You can also take a look at how much traffic you’re currently getting from mobile devices in your Google Analytics account. This will give you an idea of the impact it will have on your web traffic come April 21 if you haven’t updated your site to be mobile-friendly. However, keep in mind that the trends are pointing to an increasingly mobile audience as the years go on. Now’s the time to get ahead of the curve and avoid a Google penalty which will reduce your overall search engine rankings.

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