We’ve heard it straight from the horse’s mouth: Google will be boosting its mobile-friendly algorithm in May. The search engine began using mobile-friendliness as a ranking signal on mobile searches last year, but they’ve decide that it is time to fully embrace the formula by increasing its effects. If all goes well, the update should improve the user experience by bringing forward webpages that are mobile friendly and relevant to the query. Although this is a relatively small change expected to have an insignificant impact on search results, it never hurts to keep on top of Google’s comings and goings. So let’s explore this latest algorithm update . . .
The Mobile-Friendly Algorithm Boost
First, let’s get the facts straight. Google announced the upcoming update on the Webmaster Central Blog on Wednesday, March 16, 2016. Under the headline, “Continuing to make the web more mobile friendly,” software engineer Klemen Kloboves proclaimed and explained the news:
“Getting good, relevant answers when you search shouldn’t depend on what device you’re using. You should get the best answer possible, whether you’re on a phone, desktop or tablet. Last year, we started using mobile-friendliness as a ranking signal on mobile searches. Today we’re announcing that beginning in May, we’ll start rolling out an update to mobile search results that increases the effect of the ranking signal to help our users find even more pages that are relevant and mobile-friendly.
“If you’ve already made your site mobile-friendly, you will not be impacted by this update. If you need support with your mobile-friendly site, we recommend checking out the Mobile-Friendly Test and the Webmaster Mobile Guide, both of which provide guidance on how to improve your mobile site. And remember, the intent of the search query is still a very strong signal — so even if a page with high quality content is not mobile-friendly, it could still rank well if it has great, relevant content.”
Because this update will be rolled out gradually, don’t expect a major drop-off in traffic for webpages that aren’t mobile friendly. The entire update could take days, weeks, or even months – the exact timeframe is unclear – but we do know that the process will start at the beginning of May, less than a month from now.
Although most believe this update will be less noteworthy and influential than the original mobile-friendly algorithm update, it is hard to say exactly what the impact will be. If you are a webmaster, you’re encouraged to do two simple things: (1) build mobile-friendly pages and update those that are not currently mobile friendly and (2) don’t forget about the other factors that will influence your page’s ranking.
BUILD MOBILE-FRIENDLY PAGES
If you aren’t sure whether your page is accommodating to users on mobile devices, use the Mobile-Friendly Test provided by Google. Simply enter the URL and it will be analyzed to determine if it has a mobile-friendly design. To modernize a webpage that is not mobile friendly, use the Webmasters Mobile Guide, which is also provided by Google. This won’t just improve your site’s SERP ranking; it will also please your site’s users, many of whom are visiting your site on a mobile device. To please Googlebot, focus on the following criteria:
- Avoid software not commonly found on mobile devices (Flash, for example).
- Only use text that can be read without zooming on a mobile device.
- Size the content to the screen, so that horizontal scrolling and zooming is unnecessary.
- Do not place links close together, which can make it difficult for users to select the correct link.
If you haven’t done so already, be sure to implement the changes needed to make your webpage mobile friendly before the end of April. Come May, you will be glad you did.
DON’T FORGET ABOUT THE OTHER RANKING SIGNALS
Although mobile-friendliness has increased in importance, don’t forget about the other ranking signals that determine where your webpage will fall on search engine results pages. Many other on-site and off-site factors influence your rankings. Some of the most important signals include the following:
- High-quality, useful content
- Keyword density
- Content length
- Keyword in title tag, description tag, URL, and headings (H1, H2, H3 tags)
- Page loading speed
- Image optimization
- Recency and magnitude of content updates
- Engagement of visitors
- Quality of outbound links
- Number and quality of links pointing to the page
- Reading level
- Frequency of site updates
- Site usability
- Mobile friendliness (of course)
Google’s upcoming boost to its mobile-friendly algorithm is not expected to rock the SEO boat. If your site is already optimized and mobile friendly, you don’t need to do a thing. Sit back, relax, and don’t worry. If your site isn’t very welcoming to mobile users, however, invest some time to remedy the situation for the sake of your site and its visitors. Good luck!
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