From 21st April 2015, Google will be ranking websites it considers to be mobile friendly, higher in its mobile search rankings. The algorithm is designed to make it easier for mobile users to find websites that offer a great mobile user experience.

Phenomenal growth in mobile usage

With more and more people using their smartphones and tablets to surf the web, it makes complete sense that the search engine would consider mobile experience as a ranking factor. Between August 2013 and August 2014, mobile web usage grew by 67%, whilst desktop saw a slight decrease of 17%, proving just how important it is for businesses to optimise their sites for mobile users.

Since late last year, the search engine giant has been dropping hints that a new mobile search algorithm was on the horizon. In November 2014, you may remember that Google started adding ‘mobile friendly’ tags to its mobile search results pages, to make it easier for users to spot sites that offer a great mobile user experience. It also launched a new tool that webmasters could use to evaluate how mobile friendly their websites are and read suggestions on how they could be further optimised.

Responsive algorithm change forecast for a while

“We have all been predicting a new mobile search algorithm from Google for a while now and it’s great to finally have a launch date” said David Bryan, Managing Director of Opace. “Over the last year or so there has been a steady increase in the number of businesses investing in responsive web design and the demand is expected to spike with news of the new algorithm update.”

David continues to explain: "The key to creating a mobile friendly website in 2015 is to use responsive web design, something which Google considers as best practice. Responsive web design allows websites to identify the type of device they are being viewed on and automatically adjust to offer a flawless viewing experience. Aside from improving mobile user experience, responsive web design also tends to result in lower maintenance costs and can help businesses to future proof their sites against new device designs".

Building a responsive website

Of course, building a responsive web design can take a significant amount of time and money, which has left many webmasters wondering if they need to have a mobile friendly website by the time the launch date rolls around. Whilst there has been no clear answer to this question, in a recent Google Webmaster Hangout, John Mueller said that the 21st April launch date was announced to give website owners a date to work towards. The company hoped it would prevent them from feeling the unknown pressure of not knowing when the update was coming.

21st April 2015 is the key date

He also pointed out that although Google’s official announcement said that the update will launch on 21st April, it does not mean it will roll out specifically on that date, just that they are targeting that date for its release.

At SMX West’s Mobile SEO Panel, Google’s Gary Illyes also explained that the company would be using the search engine algorithm in real-time. He basically said that because the algorithm runs in real-time, webmasters can technically optimise their sites for mobile at any point and Google will pick up on the change and provide it with ranking benefits. So whilst the date isn’t necessarily a deadline, the sooner webmasters optimise their sites for mobiles, the sooner they will be able to benefit from increased mobile search rankings on Google.

It has also been confirmed that Google’s new mobile search algorithm will be run on a page-by-page basis. This basically means that if a website only has a few pages that are mobile friendly, then only they will receive ranking benefits, rather than the site as a whole. Essentially, businesses do not need to make their sites 100% mobile friendly by 21st April; however it definitely makes sense to optimise the pages that receive the most mobile traffic in time for the launch.

The algorithm won’t punish, it will elevate!

Whilst many people had predicted that Google’s upcoming mobile search algorithm would penalise non-mobile friendly websites, this doesn’t seem to be the case. According to John Mueller sites that were seen to be offering a great mobile user experience would be given a ranking boost; however non-mobile friendly sites would not be removed from the search results or penalised in any way. It’s simply the case that websites that do accommodate for mobile users would be getting an additional rankings boost.

Providing that websites continue to offer highly relevant content, they still have a chance of appearing in mobile search results, regardless of how mobile friendly they are.

Despite the fact Google will not necessarily be penalising non-mobile friendly websites, it is still recommended that webmasters invest in responsive web designs so they can boost their rankings, gain a competitive edge and meet the needs of their growing mobile audience.

For more information about responsive web design, visit www.opace.co.uk.

Image credits: MRafizeldi

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Telephone: 0845 017 7661

Email: info@opace.co.uk



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David Bryan
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