The Most Important Things You Should Know About Google’s 21 April Mobile-responsive Algorithm

Update On 21 April Google Changed The Algorithm It Uses To Rank Websites And Began Penalising The Websites That Aren’t Mobile Responsive.

Although it signalled this move toward mobile months ago many New Zealand businesses are still behind the eight ball when it comes to search engine optimisation and managing their online presence.

Going mobile

Digital marketing experts Pure SEO have followed the changes closely and identified the questions most businesses want to know about the change. We answer those questions for Kiwi businesses here…

What does mobile responsive mean exactly?

Mobile responsive means that content (the layout, links and text) has been designed to fit on a mobile screen and be easy to read and use. You will have encountered sites that aren’t mobile responsive, when they load on your phone the text is so tiny you can’t read it and you often need to scroll and zoom in to see the navigation properly. Because this is annoying for end-users and Google doesn’t want to deliver this kind of frustrating experience it will prioritise those sites that have well-designed pages from 21 April.

If you aren’t sure how your website will stack up against Google’s criteria use the test tool they have created here for websites,

The three methods of optimising a website are using software that will adapt the style of your current website to smaller screen sizes, creating a separate mobile site (designed for smaller scenes) or to create mobile pages (filed under the same URL) that will be served ‘dynamically’ to a mobile search.

Will the change affect searches on desktops and tablets as well as mobiles?

According to the latest information from Google the changes will only affect sites in mobile search queries, not desktop or tablet searches.

What will happen if only some of my website is mobile responsive in time for the change?

If you have several pages that are optimised then those pages will be positively ranked in Google but the pages that aren’t won’t be. This means that businesses should focus their efforts on important customer information and conversion pages first and adapt the rest of their site later.

Think strategically about what customers will want to search for on their phones and what they are likely to look up on desktop searches. Location details and maps, contact information, home pages and key product or e-commerce pages are the important ones to make mobile responsive first.

How long will it take for my pages to be considered mobile-friendly by Google once they are updated?

You won’t have to wait for another algorithm change for your pages to be moved up the rankings. Simply wait for Googlebot for smartphones to crawl and index the page or you can use Webmaster Tools to request it be indexed again. You might want to consider submitting a sitemap to encourage Googlebots to catalogue your site pages again.

Note for developers: if your mobile content uses pre-existing URLs (such as with Responsive Web Design or dynamic serving), also include the lastmod tag to signal changes.

If I don’t see any impact on my site ranking today or tomorrow does that mean that my site hasn’t been penalised?

The changes will take a while to come into effect so it may take longer than a week. The safest way to ensure your site makes it through the change unscathed is to identify any issues using Googles test tool and then fix those issues.

If you don’t take action sooner or later your site will slip in rankings and competitors with mobile responsive websites will be benefitting from the move. You can’t hide from Google!

Tips for newbies include:

1. Make your tag targets or the navigation you design for users is 7mm by 5mm which is just a little smaller than the average person’s finger size.

2. If the Google Tool identifies usability errors on pages with video content it could be the way you have embedded your files. Make sure YouTube videos are embedded as an <iframe> and not just as an <object>.

3. To get mobile responsive quickly, you can create a simple site with just the core pages optimised for mobile. You can add the other ‘nice to have’ pages later.

4. Read up online – there are a wealth of resources available for people wanting to find out more. Google has created a lot of Mobile-Friendly Website documentation and even designed a Getting Started guide for users.

So if you want to stay one step ahead of your competition get your website mobile responsive as soon as you can and start thinking about what Google will do next. Pure SEO has a hunch that voice search will be the next focus for users and search engines. More people are using their mobile devices to search than ever before and as Siri and other voice search tools become more user friendly, people will no longer type in search queries they will ask their phones for the ‘best blogposts’ and ‘tips on designing a mobile responsive website’.

The Pure SEO Team

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