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Elevated rankings for responsive websites with Google’s mobile-friendly ranking algorithm

Written by David Bryan, March 23, 2015
Google is rolling out a new mobile search algorithm that will give ranking benefits to mobile friendly websites

Elevated rankings for responsive websites with Google’s mobile-friendly ranking algorithm

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Google has recently announced that it plans to release a new mobile-friendly ranking algorithm designed to elevate the rankings of mobile friendly websites. It will make it much easier for users to identify sites offering a great mobile experience in mobile searches and will be released on 21st April this year.

The warning signs

For a while now, the team here at Opace have been anticipating a new algorithm update for mobile search. All of the warning signs have been there from Google using ‘mobile friendly’ tags in its mobile search results, to increased numbers of warnings being issued in Google Webmaster Tools stating users should “Fix mobile usability issues found”, to the new tool it offers (read more on this below). All of these  allows webmasters to evaluate how mobile-friendly their websites are.

With more and more people using their smartphones to surf the web, it was only a matter of time before Google began using mobile experience as a ranking factor. Recent figures have shown that between August 2013 and August 2014, mobile web usage increased by 67% whilst desktop web usage fell by 17%, showing that mobile is clearly the way forward.

What we know so far…

Despite announcing a release date for the new mobile search algorithm, Google likes to keep pretty quiet about its plans but after doing a little research, we’ve managed to find answers to some of the questions you are likely to have.

Works in real-time

At a recent Mobile SEO Panel, Google’s Gary Illyes described the new mobile search algorithm as working in real time. From this, we assume that he means that when a site is crawled by Google on or after 21st April 2015, providing it offers a great mobile experience, it will benefit from increased rankings immediately.

Page-by-page basis

Many people have been wondering whether a site needs to be completely mobile-friendly in order to receive mobile search ranking benefits from Google but this doesn’t seem to be the case. Gary Illyes said that the algorithm will work on a page-by-page basis so only the pages of a website that are optimised for mobile will experience an increase in rankings. This essentially means that webmasters do not have to worry about completely optimising their sites for mobile before 21st April, if they are unable to.

What about non-mobile friendly sites?

Before Google announced the new mobile search algorithm, many SEO experts (including us here at Opace) had been speculating over whether it would penalise non mobile-friendly websites. This would mean that if a website was not mobile friendly, it could end up losing its rankings completely.

However it doesn’t look like this is going to be the case. In a recent Google Webmaster Hangout, John Mueller said that the algorithm will focus on elevating rankings for mobile friendly, responsive websites and that non-mobile friendly sites will not necessarily drop off the rankings completely. Providing they continue to offer highly relevant content, there is still a chance of them appearing in mobile searches, they just won’t receive the same ranking benefits as pages that have been optimised for mobile.

Responsive Web Design Illustration

Responsive web designs will ensure sites are mobile friendly and allow them to benefit from the new mobile search algorithm.

Responsive web design is best practice

Whilst webmasters don’t necessarily have to optimise their entire sites for mobile by 21st April 2015, it makes sense to, especially if you want to benefit from improved rankings, increased traffic and more conversions.

The best way to go about optimising your website for mobile devices is to use responsive web design techniques. Considered best practice by Google, responsive web design enables websites to identify the devices they are being viewed on and adapt themselves accordingly. They facilitate a flawless viewing experience for users and offer many other benefits, which we have briefly outlined below.

  • Reduce site maintenance – When you make changes to a responsive website, it will update all versions of it. You don’t have to spend time and effort updating multiple sites, like you would with separate desktop and mobile versions.
  • Improve SEO – As well as boosting your rankings in mobile searches, thanks to the new algorithm, you may also see an increase in your rankings in desktop searches. Responsive web designs ensure a great user experience is delivered no matter the user’s device and eliminates the risk of duplicate content issues.
  • Future proof your website – The great thing about responsive websites is that they can adapt to any device they are being viewed on. This means that if a new device is launched, your site will already be optimised for it, saving you a considerable amount of time and money developing a new version of your site.

Conclusion

With just over five weeks until the algorithm is released, now is the ideal time to make your site mobile friendly, if it isn’t already. To check how mobile friendly your website is, you can use Google’s Mobile Friendly Test tool. If your site could do with major improvements, it is highly recommended that you invest in a responsive web design and that is something the team here at Opace can offer you. Get in touch for more information on how responsive web design can boost your mobile search rankings.

 

Image credits: theglobalpanorama and Rafizeldi

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