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Google’s New Mobile Ranking Changes

13th March 2015

google mobile-friendly websites

Google announced on its Webmaster Central Blog that mobile search is changing on April 21st, 2015.  This is in response to the growing number of internet users now conducting searches on mobile devices.  As Google warned in 2014, new algorithms are being introduced to accommodate this increase.

What Effects Does This Have?

Gary Illyes, Google Webmaster Trends Analyst and Search Quality Engineer, said that the algorithms are not meant to affect desktops.  At the SMX (Search Marketing Expo) Conference this month in California, he also confirmed that Google has plans for a completely separate mobile index but would not comment further on its stage of development.

Websites that are responsive tend to rank better, but Illyes denies that they have a ranking benefit.  Instead, he recommends them because responsive websites have worked well for Google.  Since December 2014, Google has been marking sites that are mobile-friendly with a mobile-friendly label in the search results.

General Factors That Affect Mobile Ranking

The following general factors affect mobile ranking:

  • Page Speed: How quickly the content on the page loads.
  • Bounce Rate: The number of visitors who leave the website after viewing only on page.
  • Image Size: The size of your images affect load time.
  • Amount of Mobile Traffic: What percentage of traffic is visiting the site on mobile devices?  Traffic includes the number of people visiting your website, the number of pages people visit on the site and the amount of time that they spend on each page.

Google Criteria For Mobile-friendly Websites

In additional to general factors, Google also has specific criteria for assigning a mobile-friendly ranking.  Users should be able to read the font on their mobile devices without zooming in.  Links should be positioned at a distance from one another that will enable users to click the link they intend to select.

The size of the content should adjust to the screen- users should not have to scroll horizontally in order to view the entire page.  Also, software needs to be compatible.  Flash, for example, isn’t rendered on most mobile devices.

Websites that are blocking CSS and javascript will not pass this test; Googlebot needs to be able to crawl both. Google still sees noscript (an open-source extension for Mozilla-based web browsers,) but blocks it when they crawl javascript.

websites mobile responsive criteria

Google’s Mobile-Friendly Site Testing Tool

Google has a relatively recent, mobile-friendly test introduced in November 2014, to determine whether or not your website is compatible with mobile devices.  Utilise it by typing in your URL and Google will tell you whether or not your site is responsive.

We tried it for our homepage and received results in less than 22 seconds, as well as the words, “Awesome! This page is mobile-friendly.”  Using a Webmaster Tools account, website owners can also access a Mobile Usability Report.  This provides data on how many pages are responsive, and where any problems exist.

Health Checks

How responsive is your website?  A full list of usability metrics can be accessed via Google Analytics and Webmaster Tools.   Need help?  We provide free health checks.  Contact us today, and find out if your website is ready.  As  Gary Illyes warns us, “April 21st is a very important day.”

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