Google’s latest mobile-friendly algorithm update – What to do?

Everything You need to Know and Do on your website in 3 Easy Steps and a couple of Guidelines to future proof your website and for the release of Google’s mobile-friendly algorithm update.

Google Will update Their Search Algorithm To boost Mobile-Friendly Sites

According to Google Webmaster Central, Google will be rolling out the most significant mobile algorithm change to date:

“Starting April 21, we will be expanding our use of mobile-friendliness as a ranking signal.”

Read it here:

In just a few short days, you’re going to witness a huge mobile SERP upset.
In fact, a Googler noted that this change will have more of an impact than Penguin or Panda, but in my humble opinion:

I don’t think so


Well; taking in consideration the websites that nowadays are built using CMS platforms like WordPress, Joomla, Magento or any other 3rd party platform that is mobile ready via responsive webdesign (RWD) or design adaptation, makes me believe that the impact will be minimal or at least equal in percentage to the amount of websites that are hand coded and that have ignored minimal html5 coding principles and some technical SEO best practices…

So…Do You want to know what to do? Don’t panic, read this article to the end, share it with others please ;) and then easily fix it if you need to, by following the steps bellow…

Here’s a bit of research on the subject and some tips to achieve a mobile-friendly website

What is a mobile-friendly site?

Thankfully, it’s pretty easy to find out; just run your website through Google’s Mobile-Friendly Test page:

google mobile friendly website test

The mobile friendly test is generally a useful indicator of a site’s mobile performance.


The mobile friendly test is generally a useful indicator of a site’s mobile performance.

Another method of checking your site mobile friendliness is to search for it on your mobile device.
If the SERP entry bears the “mobile friendly” label, then your website in Google’s mobile friends list.

mobile serp google

If the SERP entry bears the “mobile friendly” label, then your website in Google’s mobile friends list.


Google’s mobile focus timeline – slowly but surely Google has been sending warning signals of its importance…

For a few years now that Google has been proving, teaching and warning us, of how important mobile is to Google, to users and websites.
It has been doing it along with hard data gathered through the years on mobile search and consumer habits.

Here’s just some of these most important updates, although Google has been focusing on Mobile since 2001.

March 13, 2013 – Mobile Search Moments: Understanding How Mobile Drives Conversions

Google set out to understand when and why people turn to mobile search, the actions they take as a result, and how marketers can capitalize on every mobile search moment.

We found that there was an immediacy effect of mobile search, with more than half of the resulting conversions (going into a store, calling a business, or making a purchase) happening within just one hour.


Mobile Search - mobile friendly websites on Google SEO

Mobile Search Moments: Understanding How Mobile Drives Conversions – 2013


Highlights of this 2013 Google research:

Mobile search is both always-on and on-the-go
Mobile has traditionally been considered an out-and-about or on-the-go context, used on the bus or while in a store.
While that’s certainly true, the research showed that mobile’s role is also much more than that.

People turn to mobile devices throughout the day to find information because of its speed and convenience, with 77% of mobile searches happening at home or at work. What does this mean for marketers?

Mobile is always-on for consumers, so marketers should make sure their mobile search strategies are reaching people in these different customer contexts.

Mobile searchers take a variety of actions… and they act quickly
We also found that three of four mobile searches trigger additional actions.

These range from open-ended actions like additional research (36%) or a website visit (25%), to more concrete conversions like a store visit (17%), a purchase (17%), or a phone call (7%).

On average, each mobile search triggers nearly two actions, so in order to understand the full value of mobile, marketers must evaluate the different ways that their customers convert, both online and offline, and measure accordingly.

Most interestingly, not only do mobile searchers take action – they act fast. In fact,
55% of conversions from mobile searches happen within one hour.

We see this immediacy effect with mobile because not only are people potentially closer in physical proximity to a purchase, but they’re also closer to the crucial decision moments.

Forty-five percent of mobile searches are conducted to help make a decision, and that number jumps to two-thirds when happening in a store. And when people use mobile search to help make a decision, they’re more likely to convert.

So it’s important for marketers to be present during those searches, while also creating ads and experiences that are relevant to this immediacy.

Context is key to mobile searches
The research also showed that the types of searches people conduct on mobile are strongly tied to their specific context, like location and time of day.

For instance, shopping searches are twice as likely to be done in-store.

Mobile searches made in stores are a key opportunity for marketers to reach someone who’s looking to take action. And since searchers are also 55% more likely to notice ads when they’re in a store, there’s a huge opportunity for
marketers to capitalize on these mobile-led moments.

May 21, 2014 – Google announced it is able to fully render your web pages both in desktop mode and Google mode

Webmasters are indeed noticing GoogleBot fully crawling and rendered the final page, the page the user sees, not just the code behind the page.

So GoogleBot sees what users see when they visit your web page.

Google has been making a strong point about this for months.

Google Ranking Algorithm May Use Mobile UX As A Signal

Why is Google pushing this so much to webmasters? Is it just about them being on a campaign to make the web a better place?

Possibly, but how can Google do that where webmasters will actually do something about it? You got it!

By adding it to the search ranking algorithm.

Google strongly implied to us that this will become a ranking factor.

A Google spokesperson told us in May 2014:

“Because at Google we are aiming to provide a great user experience on any device, we’re making a big push to ensure the search results we deliver reflect this principle. We want users to be able to enjoy the web wherever they are.”

GoogleBot Sees What Real Users See

Google can currently look at the user interface and not just see specific font sizes but see how a user would see the fonts on different mobile devices. Google is also able to see how a user will see how a page scrolls on a mobile interface; are the buttons large enough to click on; is the interface confusing to mobile users?

If the mobile version of a website has tiny fonts, once GoogleBot renders the page, it can see that because it actually
renders the page as a user would. For example, if the HTML has a 14px font size, then once rendered with JavaScript and CSS, it might have modified those to 8px instead. This on a tiny view-port could lead to a bad user experience.

Another example might be how a mobile site requires zooming and panning for a user to see the site.

GoogleBot will correlate it to view-port of the mobile device and see how it impacts the user.

October 8, 2014 – Mobile Usability Reports Come To Google Webmaster Tools

Google adds mobile usability reports to Webmaster Tools, this was another sign mobile usability is coming to Google as a ranking signal.

John Mueller from Google’s Webmaster Trends Analyst team based in Zurich said:

“we strongly recommend you take a look at these issues in Webmaster Tools.”

Why? He doesn’t mention any ranking signals but it does seem based on Google’s back talk, mobile UX will be a ranking signal in Google’s algorithm in the near future.

This new report is just one more sign that this ranking signal was indeed coming.

November 18, 2014 – Google Officially Launched “Mobile-Friendly” Labels In Mobile Search Results

Google begins roll-out of mobile-friendly search label in the mobile search snippets, a strong signal that sooner or later something would happen…

In an effort to help mobile searchers know which sites they may click on are mobile-friendly versus which ones are not, Google has added a text label under the URL in the snippet that reads “Mobile-friendly” as the first part of the search result’s snippet.

Google said it can be a “frustrating experience for our mobile searchers” to end up on a web page that is not mobile-friendly, thus they are adding the label to their mobile search results to communicate this to the searcher.

In addition to the mobile-friendly label, Google was experimenting with a new ranking algorithm (huge tip here) for mobile friendly web sites.

Here is what the mobile-friendly label was BEFORE officially launching, note, it may change in the future:

mobile-friendly label

mobile-friendly label

How do you qualify to show such a label for your web pages?

Google said it depends on if GoogleBot detects the following criteria:

  • Avoids software that is not common on mobile devices, like Flash
  • Uses text that is readable without zooming
  • Sizes content to the screen so users don’t have to scroll horizontally or zoom
  • Places links far enough apart so that the correct one can be easily tapped

How does Google know how a user can experience your mobile site?
Well, Google WAS dropping hints that they understand mobile experience for some time now. They launched back then a mobile usability report to help webmasters find issues with their mobile web sites.

Google also recommended you tested your site in the new Mobile-Friendly Test tool, review their mobile friendly guidelines and use various third-party tools to go mobile-friendly with your web site.

This new mobile-friendly label was rolled out over the next few weeks.

As you can see, Google was warning us about the importance of mobile ready sites, doing research, gathering data, developing tools…

How to make a website mobile-friendly?


What are the top three things I should know when building a site for mobile devices?

1. Make it easy for customers.

Help your site’s visitors to complete their objectives.
They may want to be entertained by your blog posts, get your restaurant’s address, or check reviews on your products.

2. Measure the effectiveness of your website by how easily mobile customers can complete common tasks.

Making a mobile site requires prioritization.

Start by working out what the most important and common tasks are for your customers on mobile.
Being able to support these tasks is critical and this is why the measure of your mobile site is how well customers can complete their objectives.

3. Select a mobile template, theme, or design that’s consistent for all devices (i.e., use responsive web design).

Responsive web design” or RWD means that the page uses the same URL and the same code whether the user is on a desktop computer, tablet, or mobile phone – only the display adjusts or “responds” according to the screen size.

Google recommends using RWD over other design patterns.


What are the top three mistakes beginners want to avoid?

Mistake 1 – Forgetting their mobile customer.

Remember that good mobile sites are useful – they help visitors complete their tasks, whether that’s reading an interesting article or checking your store’s location.

Don’t get caught in the trap of only creating a mobile-formatted site (one that looks pretty on mobile) because it stripped away all useful functionality.

Instead, remember to build a mobile-friendly site (one that’s truly useful for mobile customers and optimized for customers most common tasks).

Mistake 2 – Implementing the mobile site on a different domain, subdomain, or subdirectory from the desktop site.

While Google supports multiple mobile site configurations, creating separate mobile URLs greatly increases the amount of work required to maintain and update your site, and introduces possible sources of technical problems.

You can often simplify things significantly by using responsive web design (RWD) and serving desktop and mobile on the same URL!

Responsive web design is Google’s recommended configuration.

Mistake 3 – Working in isolation rather than looking around for inspiration.

Check out other sites in your space or your competitors for inspiration and best practices.

While you may not be the first in your industry with a mobile site, you have the benefit of being able to learn from those before you.


Conclusion: What Should You Do About this Google algorithm update?

Google leads the way. They’ve given the command – we have to follow.

  1. As a first course of action, make your website mobile friendly. Responsive is best.
  2. Address any mobile usability issues in Google Webmaster Tools.
  3. If you have an Android app associated with your site, get it deep-linked and indexed as soon as possible.
  4. Monitor your metrics carefully up to and following the roll-out of the April 21 UPDATE.

Mobile is critical to your business and will continue to be so – whether you’re blogging about your favorite sports team, working on the website for your community theater, or selling products to potential clients.

Make sure visitors can have a good experience on your site when they’re visiting from their mobile devices!

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George Oliveira

George Oliveira

Building the internet everyday. Web Design and SEO Services in Ireland

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