Update: Google Mobile Ranking Algorithm: It’s On

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 Updated 3/5/15 and 3/27/15 with the latest information.

Remember when we said the mobile algorithm was coming? We now have an official date from Google: April 21st.

Starting April 21st Google will not just present mobile-friendly labels to users but will use specific mobile factors to rank domains in search results. This will result in more mobile-friendly websites ranking higher in search results and more relevant mobile app content appearing in search results.

According to Google, the mobile ranking signals will affect mobile searches in all languages worldwide and “will have a significant impact in our search results.” This will most definitely improve the user experience but will impact site traffic if your brand isn’t prepared.

The first step you should take is to test your pages with high mobile traffic in the mobile-friendly testing tool. You should also review your mobile usability report in Google Webmaster Tools to identity any mobile usability issues that need to be corrected. Pages with high mobile traffic that have mobile usability issues should be corrected before April 21st with a long-term goal in mind to enhance the entire site experience for mobile.

Google will also begin using information from indexed apps as a ranking factor, which will result in more content from indexed apps being shown in search results. Mobile app optimization is two-fold: app optimization and app indexing in search results. The necessary optimizations for in-store app optimization as well as mapping to the app should be put in place prior to April 21st if possible. Google has provided a full developers’ guide for mobile app indexing.

Updated:
At SMX West yesterday, Google’s Gary Illyes answered some questions around this new ranking factor. According to Google the mobile algorithms will run real-time. This means that as soon as Google identifies the change, the page should benefit from the mobile changes. Google also stated that they mobile algorithm will be page specific. This is important if you need to roll out a phased approach because of time, resources or money. Know that optimized pages will benefit in search results while non-optimized pages will not. It is our recommendation to identify the most valuable pages on your site and ensure those are mobile-optimized before April 21st and then plan to implement the rest of the optimizations as time/money/resources permit.

Updated 3/27/15:

Google released a series of hangouts talking specifically about the mobile algorithm change coming in less than a  month. Here’s what we now know:

The algorithm will start rolling out on April 21st and will take a few days to a week to complete. Again, it will impact all search queries in all countries in all languages.

You are either mobile-friendly or not, there are no degrees of mobile-friendliness in this algorithm. 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.

You can also leverage the mobile usability errors in webmaster tools but keep in mind there may be a delay. Check your top priority pages first – look for most trafficked pages and higher conversion pages – to make sure those are mobile-friendly. If not, those should become a priority.

The future is now! Without a proper mobile experience, brands could stand to lose between 30% and 50% of their traffic coming from mobile devices. Make sure your site is ready!

 

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