Google to release update for Mobile-Friendly Search

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As of April 21st Google will be rolling out their first announced update of 2015 for mobile-friendly search. The update only affects mobile results and is expected to affect more websites than Panda or Penguin have previously, which is understandable due to the massive growth mobile search has seen.

Zineb Ait Banajji, of Google’s Webmaster Trends team, let attendees of SMX know the update will impact more sites than either Panda or Penguin did. She also assured attendees at the talk that any negative impacts from the mobile update would have no effect on desktop results/traffic.

Will you be affected by the update?

Some webmasters are concerned that they will be affected negatively if they’re receiving negative mobile usability reports in Webmaster Tools. However, Google has let site owners know that as long as the mobile testing tool gives you the all clear or if your site contains the mobile-friendly tag in the SERPS you’ll most likely benefit from the update.

One thing to keep in mind is that sites are assessed on a page by page basis, so even though a homepage may be perfectly optimised, internal product pages or other content may not be and could see negative outcomes from the update.

How will mobile sub-domains be affected?

This applies to all sites serving m. sub-domains to mobile users. After the release of the mobile-friendly SERPs label in late 2014 a lot of sub-domains were seen ranking quite highly, suggesting Google was taking this as an indicator that a site was mobile-friendly. There is currently however no evidence that Google will be treating mobile sub-domains any differently to other implementations of mobile sites. Although as a top tip, Google does suggest using responsive design over either a mobile sub-domain or dynamic serving.

Do you need an app to be mobile-friendly?

Whilst apps can be a great way to provide a service outside of that which you offer on your mobile site, in most cases they are not a ranking factor. There is however an exception to the rule, and this affects Android apps.

At the moment you can get your companies app indexed in Google, but this is limited to Android apps. Google recently announced that they are going to begin using “information from indexed apps as a factor in ranking for signed-in users who have the app installed. As a result, we may now surface content from indexed apps more prominently in search.”

So if you’re thinking of creating an app, it won’t have any effect on the upcoming update. But watch this space as apps may become more of a ranking factor in the future!

 What can you do?

So you’ve checked your site in the SERPs and in the Google mobile-friendly test and the results aren’t good. Here are 3 points we think you need to prioritise before the update:

  • There are a number of reasons why your site might not be mobile-friendly – running a mobile site audit will help you and your digital agency understand the issues and come up with an action plan to get your site ready.
  • Ensure robots.txt is correctly implemented on the site – for example, is the mobile version of a site being blocked in the robots.txt file? If this is the case for your site Google won’t know a mobile friendly version exists.
  • Page speed is a really important factor for mobile search – use Google’s PageSpeed insights to assess the speed of your site on mobile.  The tool will then highlight areas which need attention and you can action them respectively.

You may be reading this and be incredibly comforted by the fact your site meets all the criteria outlined, in which case you can sit back and relax. However to those of you (and it will be the majority) who are concerned by this update, don’t despair, you still have a few weeks to ensure your site is in tip top shape and ready for the update. Hopefully this announcement will have helped, so get those tools at the ready and start ensuring your site is mobile search-friendly!

If you think this update will affect you, please contact us and speak to the team to find out how we can help.

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