Google has announced a major “mobile-friendly algorithm” update that Google’s own Zineb Ait Bahajji from the Webmaster Trends team was quoted saying will impact more sites than the notorious Penguin and Panda updates. The update is scheduled for April 21, 2015, but you can expect Google to start indexing for the new results 7 to 10 days in advance of the release.
Why so important? Recent reports put mobile at 50%+ of all search traffic, and search traffic at more than 50% of most site’s total traffic. That’s a quarter of your site’s traffic potentially impacted by mobile search.
Google’s update seeks to bring forward sites that provide the best mobile user experience. It will be a yes-or-no assessment – your site is mobile friendly or it is not – and that rating will impact your mobile search performance (your ranking).
Mobile Friendliness Checklist
So what do you need to be mobile friendly? Google prefers responsive design, but dynamic serving of HTML by device type or dedicated mobile-specific sites (m. sites) are also acceptable. However you address mobile, here is a checklist of what your site needs to pass the “mobile-friendly” test:
- The site is not slow for mobile visitors
- The page text is readable without the visitor having to zoom
- The content displays without the visitor having to scroll horizontally to see the full page
- Links are far enough apart to be clicked with a finger easily
- The site does not require Flash or other software that is uncommon or dysfunctional on mobile
- The site does not block Java script, CSS or images to mobile devises
- All videos will play on mobile
- If you have separate mobile URLs, the redirects point to the corresponding mobile page – not just the mobile homepage
- Mobile content does not link to desktop-formatted content
- There are no pop-up interstitials promoting app download vs using the mobile site (use a banner within the page)
- Desktop content does not give a 404 not found error to mobile visitors
If you can’t check off the whole list, take action quickly. Mobile friendly indexing is going to be happening soon – but also regularly. Even changes made after the 21st will be picked up by Google and can help minimize any impact on your site. Some other next steps to consider:
- Run your site through Google’s free testing tool for a real-time assessment and recommendations. You can also search for your site on Google and look for the “mobile-friendly” next to your page description in the search results
- Log into your site’s Google Webmaster Tools for a more detailed evaluation of how Google is perceiving your sites mobile friendliness in Mobile Usability reports. Note that if you have made recent updates, this data can be delayed by crawl time.
- If you are using a SEO tool, track you mobile keyword ranking in the coming weeks
- In your analytics, looks for changes in organic traffic to your top mobile pages