On 21 April 2015 Google is set to release a mobile ranking algorithm that will have a significant impact on its mobile search results. To ensure you’re not negatively affected by this update, make certain your site is mobile friendly before the algorithm hits.
Google has said that this update will affect search more significantly than both the Panda and Penguin algorithms. It’s a little unclear at this stage whether this means that both mobile and desktop search will be affected, but most bets are that this affects the mobile SERPS only.
How do I know if I’m compliant?
Your first port of call should be within Google Webmaster Tools. You may or may not have received a warning regarding mobile compliance – regardless you should check the “Mobile Usability” option (under the “Search Traffic” heading”).
This area will list any issues relating to your sites mobile functionality. Depending on your current arrangement, you will likely see a mix of the following issues:
These issues generally relate to a site that is completely non-responsive on mobile, or is responsive but has usability issues (such as touch elements that are too close together). You can also use Google’s mobile-friendly checker to analyze each page of your site.
What if I’m not compliant?
It’s bad news, especially if your website depends on mobile search for any significant amount of traffic. As we mentioned, there’s some uncertainty about whether this affects desktop search in addition to mobile. Rather safeguard your ranking and ensure you’re mobile-ready now than risk dropping a few places (or worse, pages) into an online no man’s land.
How do I make sure my site is mobile-friendly?
Clearly, the first step would be to resolve the issues mentioned in Google Webmaster Tools. In addition to these, you should:
- Ensure you understand what qualifies as ‘mobile’. For instance, tablets and feature phones are not mobile devices in the eyes of Google’s algorithm.
- Help Google understand your mobile setup:
- For responsive designs you’ll need to add information tags to tell the browser how to adjust to your mobile content. Learn more about this here.
- If you have separate URLs you’ll need to tell the browser which one is for mobile, and which one isn’t, using rel=”canonical” and rel=”alternate” elements. Learn more about this here.
- With a dynamic serving setup, you must help Google crawl your mobile-only content (which would ordinarily be invisible to a desktop user) by using the vary HTTP header. Learn more about this here.
Furthermore, you should ensure that the following common mistakes are avoided:
- Don’t let robots.txt block search engines from accessing important files (like ads) that form part your site’s rendering. Otherwise, Google may assume your site is not mobile friendly.
- Don’t fall for common mistakes like offering unplayable videos, faulty redirects, and a site that loads too slowly.
Some mobile compliance issues are relatively easy to fix, whilst others require structural changes. To ensure your site survives the 21 April algorithm, contact Penalty Pros for a no-obligation mobile SEO assessment.