Google algorithm changes for mobile search

If you have not already heard google are rolling out a major algorithm change on 21st April 2015. I don’t think I’m understating it when I say that this is possibly the biggest change to they way that google index sites and return them in searches since – well – they started providing search results to browsers. That may sound like hyberbole but it’s serious and it could adversely affect any business with a website.

Not surprisingly there’s much rumour flying around and the doom mongers are predicting the apocalypse. It’s not exactly the end of the world but it might be if you rely, in any way, on your site being found by someone searching for it (and your optimised terms) on a smartphone or tablet.

Here’s the deal: If you’re site isn’t optimised for mobile / tablet browsers it will be EXCLUDED from the search results on these devices. Yes, that’s ‘excluded’ – not ‘drop down the rankings’, but ‘not appearing at all’.

  1. What does ‘optimised for mobile / tablets’ mean?
  2. In simple terms, in order to appear in mobile search results your website needs to satisfy the following principal criteria:

    1. Fit completely onto the device screen
    2. Navigation to be sufficiently spaced
    3. Type large enough to be read
  3. How will I know if my site meets google’s criteria?
  4. Here’s the kicker – as I have discovered, just having a new website, or even a so-called mobile optimised one doesn’t guarantee you’ll make the cut. I tested ft.com yesterday and it failed. In some ways this was reassuring, this is not just about the poor small business, there’s big businesses out there with issues as well. Google have provided a handy link for you check

  5. My site appears perfectly on a mobile / tablet screen and yet fails the test – what’s going on?
  6. The fact is, most sites do. In recent years there has been a major debate about just how your site should be built – it’s essentially the argument between adaptive web design (AWD) and responsive web design (RWD). Following the trade journals as I do the parties have divided as clearly as the Big-endians and the Little-endians in Gullivers Travels. The former ‘adapts’ to the smaller screen but keeps the full design integrity of the site, whereas the latter serves up a different design and a different browsing experience. Google have just killed the argument stone dead – RWD wins. If your site wasn’t built responsively then there’s a good chance it will fail the new google algorithm.

  7. Surely google will still find my site if someone just puts in the company name?
  8. Er, no. The way Google index your site for your company name is no different from the way they index it for your optimised terms. It’s true that you’re more likely to rank for your company name but the same rule will apply – if you’re not optimised you’re excluded.

  9. We have an App that’s optimised for mobiles and tablets
    – will this work?
  10. Not really. Google will index app pages but they have no access to iTunes and so they won’t index the app as such – you might rank for your app but it’s still safer to have a mobile responsive site.

  11. What if I just optimise my homepage? Will this work?
  12. Google have stated that they will index mobile content on a page-by-page basis. As such, if just your homepage is optimised and the content being searched for is on the homepage you might get away with it. However, if your have SEO terms on non-mobile friendly pages these pages will not appear.

The bottom line is – if you want your site to appear in mobile / tablet searches then now’s the time to bite the bullet. In most cases well over half of all internet searches are made on these devices so ignoring this algorithm change could seriously affect your livelihood. If you would like to discuss any of the issues raised in this post or you would like to know how we could help restore your rankings, please call us on 020 8659 1457