Google announced that on April 21, 2015 there will be an algorithm released which uses mobile-friendliness as a ranking signal and will affect organic mobile searches in all languages worldwide. The update also uses app content as a ranking factor for app users who are signed in on their mobile device, which we will cover further in this post. These advances are part of Google’s efforts to give users the most relevant and user-friendly results on their mobile devices. There have been a number of signs and updates in the past few years which hinted that this day would come. After all, Google’s mission is “to organize the world’s information and make it universally accessible and useful.”
The mobile-friendly algorithm is predicted to affect more sites and rankings than the Panda or Penguin algorithms, and will start rolling out on April 21st and continue throughout the week. If you do not have a responsive site, or a mobile-friendly version of your site, you will most likely see a decrease in mobile organic traffic after the release. This is due to the change in Google’s algorithm for mobile, as it is now a ranking signal. That being said, there are still hundreds of other ranking signals affecting SEO, but this is the first that Google has outright announced in regards to mobile. It is important to also note that if you are impacted by this algorithm release initially, you can still rank on mobile down the road if your site is made responsive and is re-indexed by Google.
How to check if your site will be affected by Google’s mobile-friendly algorithm, and what to do about it:
- Do a branded search on a mobile device, and check for the mobile-friendly label next to your site’s result
- Use Google’s Mobile-Friendly Test to test specific pages on your site
- Use your Google Webmaster Tools account to get a full list of mobile usability issues, and make the recommended improvements
- Consider investing in a responsive site. Mobile is not going anywhere!
Google’s mobile-friendly algorithm’s impact on paid advertising:
This algorithm update affects mobile organic search engine result pages (SERPs) only. Google has always been tight lipped on explaining correlations between SEO and PPC, but despite this lack of transparency we can still make an inference on how they relate to one another.
- Quality Score – While Google doesn’t explicitly explain how Quality Score is calculated, we know it is greatly impacted by Click Through Rate (CTR). Other factors are said to come into play as well, including landing page quality and relevance, and page load time. Since a mobile-friendly landing page would likely have a faster load time, and overall be more user-friendly, we suspect that quality score could be affected.
- Landing Pages – We’ve seen that successful paid search campaigns can benefit from great landing pages with quality content. In this case, if a user is on a mobile device and clicks an ad, but the landing page is not responsive, or has poor content, they will be unlikely to convert and will move to a competitor. This not only affects the obvious short-term factors, including revenue, conversion rate, and bounce rate, but also long-term success if you are missing opportunities to acquire new customers.
- Remarketing – Capturing users further down the funnel by serving them an ad once they’ve already visited your site is a great tactic, and typically results in a higher conversion rate. Users may initially find your site by clicking an organic result however, they may find your site again after doing a search and clicking on your ad. If users are on a mobile device, and you’re no longer ranking organically, you miss the opportunity to place a cookie and remarket to them later on.
Google’s mobile-friendly algorithm’s impact on apps:
- More visibility for your app on mobile SERPs – On Android, Google already serves an “App Pack” as a search result, depending on the query, and an App drop-down option on iOS devices. On Androids, the “App Pack” often shows above the fold, pushing the standard organic results down the page.
- With this update, if you have an app with good ASO (app store optimization) you have an opportunity for more downloads.
- High quality apps will rank higher. This includes having good ASO (app store optimization) and Deep Links between your site and specific pages in your app.
- Reduced visibility for sites on app-related queries – Since organic results are pushed downward, mobile sites may see a decline in traffic since visibility is reduced on specific queries that show app-related intent.
The importance of this mobile-friendly algorithm update is not to be underestimated; Adlucent shares in our most recent whitepaper that 65% of multi-device journeys start on smartphones, and 45% of offline sales are web-influenced. Talk to your SEM teams about a plan of action if your site is not currently mobile-friendly.
Click here to register for our free webinar on April 20, Google’s Mobile Friendly Algorithm: Keys to Driving Online Retail Sales with SEO & SEM, hosted by myself and Brian Klais, Founder & CEO of Pure Oxygen Labs.