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Google’s Mobile Search Algorithm Update: What You Need to Know

Friday, April 17th, 2015 by Erin Peters

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Move over Penguin and Panda, here comes – you heard it here first – Manatee!

Well, maybe not. But your mobile web presence should be prepared for something big.

Last November, mobile traffic surpassed desktop traffic for the first time, according to IBM.  And nearly 28% of all online sales came from mobile devices.

Is your website optimized for mobile and ready for Google’s next update?  While there’s no appropriate animal moniker for the update yet, this one will likely have more of an impact than Panda or Penguin. And it’s only impacting the mobile results.

Google’s official announcement:

“Starting April 21, we will be expanding our use of mobile-friendliness as a ranking signal. This change will affect mobile searches in all languages worldwide and will have a significant impact in our search results. Consequently, users will find it easier to get relevant, high quality search results that are optimized for their devices.”

What you need to know:

  • The algorithmic change will take effect on April 21st.
  • This affects organic searches that are performed from a mobile device.
  • The algorithm changes will focus on a number of key areas, including rewarding sites with text that can be read without the need to zoom and appropriately sized content that eliminates the need to scroll.
  • This is at the page level, so pages will get promoted for being “mobile-friendly”.
  • Google has created a Mobile-Friendliness tool that will give you a ‘yes’ or ‘no’ answer on a per-url basis.
  • If a mobile search query is highly correlated with mobile app listings (in the Google Play and iOS App Stores), your app could see significantly more visibility within mobile search results pages.
  • Google has expanded the types of information that they scrape and pull from a site, especially in mobile. Whenever you see a little grey ‘i’ in the upper right hand corner of a mobile search result, it means that Google is probably getting a small portion of any related transaction.

How much traffic do you get from mobile?

The image below shows us how much organic traffic is coming from a mobile device. Then go to Audience > Mobile > Overview > Secondary Dimension drop down > choose Source / Medium.

MobileGoogleArticle-AnalyticsMoz believes that Google will launch a new mobile crawler (probably with an Android user-agent) that can do a better job of crawling single-page web apps, Android apps, and perhaps even Deep Links in iOS apps.

How much will it affect your traffic?

Here’s what Google has to say about it (full story here):

“The mobile-friendly algorithm is an on or off algorithm, on a page-by-page basis, but it is not about how mobile-friendly your pages are, it is simply are you mobile-friendly or not.

But as we mentioned earlier, there are over 200 different factors that determine ranking so we can’t just give you a yes or no answer with this. It depends on all the other attributes of your site, whether it is providing a great user experience or not. That is the same with desktop search, not isolated with mobile search.”

Here are some helpful steps to test your site’s mobile capacity:

  1. View your site on various mobile devices including Apple & Samsung.
  2. Review if the links and buttons on your mobile device are large and easy to find, and spaced properly from other elements of the site.
  3. Evaluate page load time. Limit the number of images.
  4. Test your eCommerce, mobile checkout.  It will convert more if you keep your number of clicks down.  If you have a small e-commerce site that processes payments with PayPal, also consider using Amazon Payments (or an API w/ PayPal) which allows customers to login with Amazon and pay with Amazon while never navigating away from your website.
  5. Show the most important & relevant content.  Content is not necessarily king, when it comes to mobile. Pair it down to the most important information. Make sure to insert a button on the bottom right that allows mobile users to go back to the top of the page instantly.
  6. Make sure there is a visible click-to-call button.  These buttons are designed to call the number, when clicked on a mobile device.
  7. Make the content, products and/or services on mobile sharable: Optimizing for social sharing standards is key.

SERPs (Search Engine Results Page) are changing all the time. Knowledge graph has jumped from 17% to 27% of Google’s queries, according to Moz’s Dr. Pete Meyers.

“Google is essentially competing against us with our own information, and I think that’s a turning point in the relationship between Google and webmasters.” -Dr. Pete Meyers, Moz

Don’t risk a continued drop in rankings, make sure your site is engaging, creative, optimized and mobile friendly.

Make sure your mobile site is nimble and a hell of a lot faster than a manatee.

Google is taking a mobile first mentality. Get on the same page.

We can help.

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