Mobile friendliness as ranking factor in Google
The development towards mobile has been going on for quite some time now. In 2014 on SMX West (a search marketing conference in California, 2014) Google’s spam fighter No. 1 announced:
“I would not be surprised if mobile search queries exceed desktop queries in the year 2015.” (Matt Cutts)
On SMX Advanced (2014), Cutts said:
“If there is one thing I would leave with you tonight, it would be to prepare for mobile.” (Matt Cutts)
Both quotes have, ever since, been mentioned quite often. Google’s face in the industry has thereby made everyone aware of how important mobile is becoming and how much more important it will become in the future. If there is one message to be heard here, it must be:
Get your website ready for mobile devices and make them accessible for these!
Picture 1: Matt Cutts about mobile friendliness, Tweet
With these recent developments, Google is supporting the vast use of mobile devices throughout the web. Just recently, in January 2015, Google has sent warnings out to webmasters, if sites were not ready for tablets and smartphones. These messages come as no surprise after the speculations of Cutts.
Now the big question is, if there will be a major update that will incorporate these factors in the algorithms of Google.
The answer is: YES.
“Starting April 21, we will be expanding our use of mobile-friendliness as a ranking signal.”
On April 21st, mobile friendliness will be an official ranking factor in the mobile search results of Google. If you haven’t optimized your website to be accessible on mobile devices, you should act swiftly now.
Being a SEO, I have been seeing the mobile trend in Google-Analytics for all websites that we offer counsel for – the numbers of accesses by mobile devices are ever increasing. This trend, of course, is something that Google is taking into account.
Picture 2: Mobile ready PRO version of JSN EPIC Template
If you are using the PRO Versions of JoomlaShine Templates already, your website can be easily accessible on mobile devices such as smartphones or tablets. JSN’s templates have been fully responsive for quite some time now.
Let’s have a look at the genesis of mobile device use
In 2013, Google started to inform about the changes in rankings of smart phone results. In August of 2013, PageSpeed Insights were enhanced by the “mobile” section. In December of 2013, Google enriched their Webmaster Tools with the display of mobile crawling errors. Also in December, Google launched a developer section to aid webmasters to get mobile ready and learn about best practices.
A year later, in November 2014, all webmasters are offered information about the accessibility and usability of their website on mobile devices in Webmaster Tools.
Amongst these, information about what has to be fixed to be viewed and accessed on mobile devices are given.
Picture 3: Google Webmaster Tools – Mobile Usability
But not enough here – late 2014, Google introduced a new label for mobile friendliness in their search result pages:
Picture 4: Search result pages with mobile friendly label
Why is Google going mobile?
In the past, Google has softly been announcing to adapt to the trend of mobile devices. Being a SEO from the European Union, we have often discussed the impact on mobile search queries due to the wide adaptation and accessibility of mobile devices on the market. In the past, this trend has been going slower in the EU than in other countries because many people classically use a desktop pc to go online.
Picture 5: Mobile use in the EU (Source: StatCounter)
In Asia, however, many people skipped the step of having a desktop computer using mobile devices instead.
Picture 6: Mobile use in Asia (Source: StatCounter)
These trends are of course widely noticed by Google and it is no surprise that Google will help users finding relevant and mobile friendly webpages in their search results.
This has a profound economic reason: Google always tries keeping users on their platform to display ads. In case Google would not adapt to the trends in that regard, users may lose faith in Google being the number one provider for good and relevant search results on mobile devices.
Needless to say: mobile readiness means mobile ads – a new source to gain profit from for Google.
What do JoomlaShine – template users need to do?
Joomlashine Templates are mobile ready in the PRO edition of the template. If you go to Template → JSN Template → Layout, you can set the mobile device parameters:
Picture 7: JSN Teki mobile settings in PRO version
Will I lose ranking positions on mobile in Google?
The question whether you are losing rankings in the mobile search results in Google is one not easily answered. However, I predict that this depends on a couple of parameters:
If many of your competitors have a mobile friendly site and you are the one that doesn’t, it is likely that you will lose rankings in Google’s mobile search. If many of your competitors do not support mobile, you could be the one to gain rankings if you are mobile friendly already.
Relevance of your website for the query
From a SEO perspective, Google always tries to deliver the most relevant search result to your search query. Should you not have a mobile ready site but are the most relevant result for the query it is unlikely that Google will suddenly de-rank you. This, however, also depends on the competitive situation and there is not telling how other ranking factors in combination will influence your rankings at last.
My advice though is: if you are not on mobile now, you need to hurry. Changes in the algorithms will go live on the 21st of April 2015. Usually Google’s policy is to not announce updates and surprise everyone with new algorithmic changes.
This time, Google made an announcement – it is predictable that the influence of the update will be big. So start your engines, ladies and gentlemen!
Something about tools
To make websites rank higher in search engines, we use a variety of tools. Next to the check of your rankings in Google, you will need tools that advise you on where to go with SEO.
As onsite-check-tools, I find these ones great:
audisto.com (before: strucr) – advanced level, very good
onpage.org – novice/advanced level with great knowledge base
Ranking checks (desktop and mobile)
Sistrix.com – mobile index is available
Searchmetrics.com – mobile index also available
My personal favorite for custom keyword-sets:
Manhattan-tool.com (no mobile index at the moment)
All the tools here I use on a daily basis. They are my personal recommendation and reflect my needs – they may not fit yours. Try them sometime!
“May you live in interesting times!” (old Chinese curse)
This article is brought to you by Christopher Wagner of 1aSEO from Germany. If you are interested in a Recap of the SEO Campixx and the Campixx week of 2015, just click. Be aware, the article is in German and contains some interesting details about the learnings from one of the biggest SEO get togethers in Germany.