Google warns: the time to go responsive is now.
On the 29th of October last year, Google announced the latest addition to Google Webmaster Tools’ suite: mobile usability. November of last year also saw the debut of “mobile-friendly” labels in mobile search results. With such a quick succession of updates, prolific SEOs were forecasting a major algorithm update.
Now Google has issued the first wide-scale alert concerning mobile usability: “Starting April 21, we will be expanding our use of mobile-friendliness as a ranking signal.”
On March 4th Google’s spokesperson, Gary Illyes, went on record to confirm that the mobile friendly ranking factor runs in real time, as well as a page-by-page basis. As always, Google has held their cards close to their chest about whether the update will be site-wide or targeted page by page. This would alleviate a lot of concerns that webmasters have been facing leading into the update.
What has many webmasters worried is that Google has never overtly confirmed pending dates of changes. This suggests that the impact could be very damaging for websites that source a lot of their traffic from mobile search.
What does this mean? In a nutshell – if you have 100 pages on your site – 60 mobile-friendly and 40 that are not – only the mobile-friendly pages will benefit from the upcoming changes. It’s important to note that Google is still using many mobile desktop signals for mobile ranking factors and this includes page speed. How far they step away from using desktop signals for mobile search after the April update will be interesting to say the least.
How can you tell if you will be affected by these pending changes? Enter your website address in Google’s mobile-friendly test at: https://www.google.com/webmasters/tools/mobile-friendly/.
This announcement comes after a long series of algorithm updates by Google, intended to force webmasters into improving the internet collectively. “Google’s mission is to organize the world’s information and make it universally accessible and useful.”
With mobile usage eclipsing desktop usage in 2014, it hardly comes as a surprise that mobile-friendly websites will be next in line.
While it is certain that industries dependent on mobile traffic will see drastic changes, it is unclear if the changes will affect searches from desktop. WME predicts that there will definitely be some crossover effects to desktop search. The scale of this will remain a mystery until April 21.