In preparation for the release of Google’s mobile-friendly algorithm update on April 21st 2015, we look into what we already know and what you should do to adapt.
There’s no mistaking the fact that Google is driving the mobile revolution. Google is the world’s largest mobile platform provider (Android). Google is the world’s largest mobile search provider. Google has the largest mobile app store. In other words, Google gets to make the calls on mobile.
But things are getting even bigger. Google isn’t satisfied with the biggest piece of the pie for devices, search, and apps. They might eventually own the airwaves too.
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.
In just a few short days, you’re going to witness a huge algo upset. In fact, a Googler noted that this change will have more of an impact than Penguin or Panda.
Unfortunately, the test is not without its flaws. Google admits it with its prominent placement of a feedback form. Nonetheless, the mobile friendly test is generally a useful gauge of a site’s mobile performance.
Another method of checking your site is to search for it on your mobile device. If the SERP entry bears the “mobile friendly” label, then you’re in Google’s good graces.
I’m trying not to read too much into the announcement, but I can’t help but notice that ominous word, “significant.”
This change will affect mobile searches in all languages worldwide and will have a significant impact in our search results.
What will be the actual impact of an algo change that is “significant”? It’s anyone’s guess. Out of curiosity, I searched the Webmaster blog archives for all occurrences of the term “significant.” What are some other things that Google called “significant”?
A survey like mine is facile, of course, but I think we need to assess and prepare for something that Google deems “significant.”
Already, we know that this update will be bigger than Panda or Penguin. We also know that Google considers mobile to be so significant that they are working to dominate nearly all of its manifestations. With this search update, we should brace ourselves for a tectonic adjustment in the way that mobile search functions.
My basic predictions are that non-optimised pages will virtually drop from mobile rankings and possibly desktop rankings. I predict that any page lacking mobile optimisation will cease to rank for head terms. I predict that SERP results on page 1 for longtail keywords above a certain search frequency threshold will feature mobile-friendly only pages.
An additional insight from Google’s John Mueller is that Google mixes some of the desktop and mobile ranking signals. Page speed, for example, is blended in its impact on both desktop and mobile search. Additionally, it seems true that Google’s top heavy algorithm also shares the desktop/mobile impact.
We can safely assume that some of the features that are good for desktop are equally good for mobile, assuming the page has a mobile-friendly design. But keep in mind that the algorithm may begin to differentiate the various factors that are currently bundled as one and the same. Because of the vastly different platforms, load time, layout, etc., between desktop and mobile, it would make sense for it to do so.
Apparently, Google is experimenting with different algorithm signals that are device-dependent.
Right now, Google leads the way. They’ve given the command – we have to follow.
Finally, let’s keep learning, listening, and testing so that we can adapt to the changing face of search.