Towards the end of last year, Google caused a stir within the SEO community, as they’re wont to do, by announcing they would begin labeling mobile friendly sites on mobile search results pages. In the article published on this site on the subject, it was suggested that mobile usability could become a ranking factor in the future. Well, the future is now. Google announced they would start including mobile friendliness as a ranking factor in mobile search and improving relevant apps in search results as well.
The biggest change, that Google will start using mobile-friendliness as a ranking factor, won’t go into effect until April 21st. This may sound minor, but Google says this will be a major change. The change will “affect mobile searches in all languages worldwide and will have a significant impact in our search results”.
There are several tools from Google that business owners can use to see how mobile-friendly their site is. For those who just need to test a few pages there is a quick Mobile-Friendly Test. This is good to use for websites that have certain pages that are targeted for mobile search.
However, most modern websites are (or should be) built to perform well on mobile devices and desktop computers. Testing the entire site is more in depth, but there are Google tools for that as well. Business owners who have a Webmaster Tools account can use the Mobile Usability Report to get a full list of mobile usability issues for the entire site.
In the announcement of the change to the search algorithm, Google sought to make it clear that sites that weren’t mobile friendly would still show up in search results. Though they may be lower down the list.
“When it comes to search on mobile devices, users should get the most relevant and timely results, no matter if the information lives on mobile-friendly web pages or apps,” wrote Takaki Makino, Chaesang Jung, and Doantam Phan in a blog post. “As more people use mobile devices to access the internet, our algorithms have to adapt to these usage patterns.”
The other change the company announced is that more app data will also be included as a ranking factor for mobile search. Google has begun using information from “indexed apps as a factor in ranking for signed-in users who have the app installed”. In practical terms, it means that Google will be able to surface content from apps and include that content in search results.
Improved integration of app content in search results is a boon to marketers who have apps with relevant content they would want people to find while searching. However, this isn’t for all apps, so business owners need to have their app indexed by Google. There’s a step-by-step guide from Google on the developer site.
The changes from Google make it more important than ever for website owners to make sure their site is mobile friendly. Don’t forget, Google is still labeling the mobile-friendly sites on mobile search result pages. A site that doesn’t make the grade will face lower rankings and lack the label which encourages mobile users to click.
Keeping up with Google may be exhausting, but it’s necessary for businesses that want the maximum reach for their site and content. For more information on a change that may be coming down the line, read this article about Google’s experiment with a red “Slow” label for websites with speed issues.