It's not uncommon for Google to unleash an unexpected algorithm update that catches search marketers off guard, penalizing everything in its warpath. Luckily, this is not one of those updates. Google has graciously announced that starting April 21, 2015, the search engine giant will start incorporating a site's "mobile friendliness" as a ranking signal for mobile searches. With mobile usage surpassing desktop usage, it's not surprising that Google is shifting their focus towards the mobile space.
What is Google's mobile update?
Just like any other Google algorithm update, this one was also prompted by Google's never-ending appetite to improve user experience. If your site has a poor mobile experience, you could be losing traffic and conversions. In layman's terms, Google's objective is to make sites appropriate for the screen size, reducing the need for users to scroll, zoom, and squint when navigating through a mobile site. If your site's text is too small, links are too close together, or content is wider than the screen; your site will most likely see a drop in traffic if these issues are not fixed by April 21st.
Is your website "mobile friendly"?
Google has rolled out two great tools that allow you to test your site's performance on mobile devices. Mobile Friendly Test Click on the link, and enter in your website URL. If Google does not deem your site as mobile friendly, a list of reasons why will appear. If your site is already mobile friendly, a "mobile-friendly" label will be seen when your site shows up in Google’s search results.
Mobile Usability Report
This feature in Google Webmaster Tools identifies mobile usability issues with your site such as font size, touch elements, content viewport, Flash, etc., so that you can improve your mobile experience for your users.
If your site is already mobile-friendly, pat yourself on the back; you dodged this algorithm bullet. If your site has a poor mobile experience, and considered not mobile-friendly, you need to address this problem as soon as possible (preferably before April 21st). Your first course of action is making your site mobile friendly (oh, Rhythm can help with this - get in touch today).
While a responsive web design is ideal, dynamic serving and separate URLs will also suffice. Once your site is mobile friendly, then address any mobile usability issues in Google Webmaster tools. Finally, carefully monitor your metrics such as traffic and rankings both prior and following April 21st. Looking for more details/tips surrounding the April 21st Google algorithm change? Here are some great resources: