Google’s dropped another bomb on us – an algorithm update. But this one – which isn’t at this point named after a cute animal – is being announced by Google well in advance, and it’s not likely going to have the somewhat disastrous consequences that Panda & Penguin had for some websites.
Google has announced that on April 21st they will be expanding their use of ‘mobile-friendliness’ as a ranking signal. The rollout of this will happen all at once – all countries, all languages. They say it will have a ‘significant impact’ on their search results.
It’s very nice of Google to give all of us nearly 2 months’ notice, but if you’ve been paying attention, you could see this coming from a mile away.
Let’s take a look at the events that lead up to this announcement
October 29th, 2014 – Tracking Mobile Usability in Webmaster Tools
Google added a new section in Webmaster Tools allowing us to see mobile usability issues with our sites including tiny font, links or buttons that were too close together, and when content didn’t fit properly within the width of a mobile browser.
At this point there was nothing explicit from Google as to why they were offering up this information, but there was definitely speculation even at this point it would lead to an algorithm change.
November 18th, 2014 – The ‘Mobile-Friendly’ tag on search results pages
Google started by telling webmasters privately if there were issues with their site on mobile, and then they started telling everyone publicly if your site had issues on mobile by applying a ‘Mobile-Friendly’ tag next to websites that passed their test. Although at this point there was still no talk about using this as a ranking signal it surely was having (and will to continue to have) a strong impact on clickthrough ratio. As a user, if you know that one site is going to give you a good mobile experience because of the ‘mobile-friendly’ tag and another site may be difficult to navigate and read because it doesn’t have the ‘mobile-friendly’ tag, all other things being equal, you’re going to click on the mobile-friendly site.
February 26th, 2015 – Change to the Mobile Algorithm
And finally we get the announcement from Google that hopefully many people were waiting for – that they’re going to be rewarded for their mobile site and providing users with a good experience on mobile.
This algorithm change applies to mobile search results only. So it doesn’t have an effect on the search results that you see on desktop, laptop or (notably) tablet. If you have a responsive site, in the context of this algorithm change, that’s no better than having your main website + a mobile site.
Your site as a whole is not assessed for mobile-friendliness – it’s going to be done on a page-by-page basis.