Google Mobile Friendly Algorithm Change

On April 21st 2015, Google will implement a new change to the search algorithm targeting websites that aren’t mobile-friendly.

Given the amount of interest this announcement has garnished (dubbed “mobilegeddon“) and the increased awareness for Webmasters to get sites optimized for mobile search (prior to 21st April 2015) why is this announcement different to previous algorithm changes?

Mobile Friendly Ranking Signal Google

Why This Algorithm Change Is Different?

  1. It’s Global– effectively hitting the entire web at the same time (not just U.S. based)
  2. We Know The Date– historically Google never announced the actual day of an algorithm change
  3. It’s Page Level Only– a page is either declared mobile-friendly or it’s not (Not Domain Level)
  4. Desktop vs. Mobile Ends– this algorithm suggests that desktop and mobile rankings may diverge with Mobile search seeing the greatest impact of this change


Google Clarifies Mobile Friendly Algorithm

  1. The algorithm will start rolling out on April 21st and will take a few days to a week to completely and globally.
  2. You are either mobile-friendly or not, there are no degrees of mobile-friendliness in this algorithm.
  3. The fastest way to see if your web pages are mobile-friendly is to see if you have the mobile-friendly label in the live mobile search results now. If not, check the mobile-friendly testing tool, which should match the live Google search results, whereas the mobile usability reports in Google Webmaster Tools can be delayed based on crawl time.

You either have a mobile friendly page or not. It is based on the criteria we mentioned earlier, which are small font sizes, your tap targets/links to your buttons are too close together, readable content and your viewpoint. So if you have all of those and your site is mobile friendly then you benefit from the ranking change.

How does Google determine “Mobile Friendly”?

Google has previously stated they prefer Responsive web design. Responsive is a setup where the server always sends the same HTML code to all devices and CSS is used to alter the rendering of the page on the device.

responsive design

Meta viewport tag gives the browser instructions on how to adjust the dimensions and scaling of the page to the width of the device. To signal to browsers that your page will adapt to all devices, add a meta tag to the head of the document:

  1. Use meta name=”viewport” tag to tell the browser how to adjust the content.
  2. For responsive images, include the “picture” element.

NOTE – Do not to block the crawling of any page assets (CSS, JavaScript, and images) for any Googlebot using robots.txt or other methods. Being able to fully access these external files will allow Google’s algorithm to detect the site’s responsive web design configuration and treat it appropriately.

How to check if a page is “Mobile Friendly”?

Use the free online tool provided by Google – Check if a Webpage is Mobile Friendly with Google

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