What to Expect from Google’s Mobile-Friendly Update

In case you missed it, Google announced back in February that they plan to release a major algorithm update on Tuesday, April 21st. According to Google, the update will expand their use of mobile friendliness as a ranking signal and will be the most significant update they’ve ever released. To put things into perspective, Google Webmaster Trends analyst Zineb Ait Bahajji was quoted at SMX Munich, saying that the upcoming update would be a bigger upset than Panda and Penguin.

Google continues to dominate the mobile market. Android devices are the world’s most popular mobile platform, and Google’s mobile app store is the largest on the web. Now Google is flexing their mobile muscle even more by setting the standard for mobile search. Since Google made the big announcement, many businesses have been working frantically to get their sites in order, in preparation for the big day.

I’ve combed through the rumors, ramblings and expert opinions and I’ve tried to put together an easy-to-digest post that (hopefully) addresses your most pressing questions about what this update will mean for SEOs and site owners going forward. Keep in mind that some of this is pure conjecture, based on a combination of what Google has told us and what we’ve experienced in the past. We won’t know anything 100 percent until the update rolls out later this month.

Will the mobile-friendly update impact desktop?

No. Although Google will use many of the same ranking signals it uses for desktop search results, the update is specifically designed for mobile. Keep in mind that according to 2014 comScore data, over 60 percent of all web traffic occurs on mobile devices – and that number is expected to continue to increase over the next few years. That being said, I would recommend making sure that your site is as mobile-friendly as possible, regardless how much of your traffic is currently mobile.

Will the mobile-friendly update impact tablets?

No. There seems to be some confusion as to what constitutes as “mobile traffic.” In this case, tablet traffic is a separate entity from mobile. As I mentioned above, this update is only aimed at mobile (i.e. smartphone) traffic – not tablets. Barry Schwartz of Search Engine Roundtable provided some proof here to confirm this. Be that as it may, I wouldn’t be surprised if Google releases an additional update at some point that aims to improve the user experience for tablet devices.

How do I know if my site meets Google’s mobile-friendly guidelines?

Google’s Mobile-Friendly Testing Tool – the nice part about this tool is that it’s super easy to use. All you do is enter a specific url and Google gives you a simple yes/no response as to whether or not the page is mobile-friendly. If the page contains elements that are not mobile-friendly, Google will provide suggestions for how you can fix these issues.

Google’s mobile-friendly label – if you search for any of your main keywords on a mobile device, you will notice a “Mobile-Friendly” label that appears next the result. If you don’t see this label, then chances are the page is not mobile-friendly.

Google’s mobile-friendly guidelines – Google has put together some documentation that outlines the specific criteria that a site must meet to be deemed mobile-friendly. If you have any specific questions, chances are you’ll find your answer here.

What percentage of search queries will be impacted?

Although this update will only impact mobile search results, as I mentioned above, Zineb confirmed that the upcoming update will have a greater impact than the infamous Panda and Penguin updates. Although this doesn’t tell us much in terms of specifics, we can count on it having widespread impacts across a high percentage of mobile search queries. It’s important to note that we still don’t know whether these changes will impact all mobile results or if they will be limited to Android and iOS devices.

Does Google prefer responsive, adaptive or separate mobile sites?

According to Google, they do not favor any particular format, as long as the pages and all page assets are accessible to all Googlebot user-agents. Many Google reps have said in the past that responsive design is the least error-prone and the easiest to crawl and index, but now Google seems to be more open to other site architectures, such as adaptive (dynamic) and standalone mobile urls.

How will this update help or hurt my business?

The downside is simple: you will ultimately lose traffic if your site isn’t mobile-friendly. However, on the flip side, in addition to higher search engine rankings, sites that are mobile-friendly may also see a higher conversion rate for mobile visitors. The main goal behind Google’s mobile-friendly update is to enhance the user experience. By improving the user experience on your site, you’re effectively increasing the likelihood of users converting and signing up to become customers. It’s a really win-win.

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