On April 21, Google implemented an algorithm change that could grant “mobile-friendly” pages a higher ranking on mobile search engine results than pages not optimized for mobile devices. In the months leading up to the algorithm update, marketers were concerned about the possible negative impact it could have on performance. Mobile searches comprise up to 35 percent of all search traffic, and a lower mobile rank could result in missed traffic and conversions. However, this change has not created the “Mobilegeddon” some feared. The following post reviews the impact the updated algorithm has had on mobile, and summarizes how marketers can prepare for future changes.
Impact of Google’s Mobile Algorithm Update
Google is now a few weeks into the full roll-out of its update. Here is how the update has impacted mobile rankings to date:
- Natural mobile rankings have not been significantly disrupted on Page 1 results – According to 360i analysis and outside webmaster chatter, the impact to Page 1 has not been significant. Many Page 1 natural links continue to maintain the positions they held previously. However, 360i clients that have good mobile experiences are beginning to see rank improvements.
- Deeper search results are seeing more movement with mobile-friendly sites climbing the ranks – According to a recent study by BrightEdge, Page 3 results displayed fewer non-mobile friendly listings (from 30% to 24%). BrightEdge speculated that deeper search results have weaker ranking factors (i.e. links, social buzz, and content structure), which suggests that mobile-friendliness can play a more impactful role in swaying rankings on these pages.
- Natural mobile traffic has not shifted to paid listings – Across 360i clients, mobile paid search metrics like impressions, clicks and click-through-rates were consistent with figures prior to the algorithm change. This suggests that traffic was not diverted from natural links to paid links, and the algorithm change did not alter behavior within search results.
Preparing for Future Changes
While the algorithm update did not significantly alter mobile search result pages, optimizing pages for the smaller mobile screen is still important. Google and its competitors will continue to implement more changes to deliver the best possible experiences to mobile users. Microsoft for example just recently announced that it will implement a similar natural algorithm change rewarding mobile-friendly pages. Site owners and marketers should think “mobile-first” and abide by best practices to prepare for future changes:
- Avoid software not common on mobile devices – For example, Flash does not work within Android or iOS.
- Use text that is readable – Don’t require users to pinch-and-zoom in to read content.
- Size content to the mobile screen – Don’t make users have to scroll horizontally or zoom.
- Place links far enough apart – Make links accessible and easy to tap.
Marketers can determine the mobile-friendliness of their sites by taking Google’s mobile-friendly test here. According to BrightEdge’s study, a score of 80 or above indicates a page is mobile-friendly.
Authors: Scott Walldren, SEO Director and Kenneth Hamner, Associate Media Director at 360i
Cover photo via Huffington Post