No, you didn’t read that wrong! Google’s Ait Bahajji from the Webmaster Trends team was quoted saying at SMX Munich that the upcoming mobile-friendly algorithm will impact more sites than their Panda or Penguin algorithms.
Whether this simply means that more websites will be affected because mobile Search is 40% of all search results (vs Panda at 12% and Penguin at 1-3%) is anyone’s guess – and we won’t find out until the algorithm rolls out on April 21st and any subsequent roll backs and adjustments occur.
In light of this news I’ve prepared some FAQs for mobile-friendly websites so you can assess whether you need to take action.
What’s the point of this algorithm?
Google are high on User Experience at the moment (and so they should be!) – they upped their quality guidelines for links (Penguin) and content (Panda) and now they want to make sure mobile search results are quality as well. To this end, Google announced the Mobile-Friendly algorithm on February 26th. What this means is your website needs to be responsive (or have a mobile version at the very least), load quickly and contain quality, useful content. If you’ve got a good responsive website you should be fine.
Do I really need a mobile website?
Stupid question? I think not! Obviously if you have a website you want to ensure your visitors have the best user experience, and that means a responsive website if they’re viewing on a mobile.
However, if you look at your Analytics traffic and see a very low percentage (less than 5% of 1000 visits for example) and your site doesn’t drive many inquiries or sales from this page then it might not hurt you to go without a responsive site on April 21.
I have a mobile website (e.g. m.example.com). Is this ok and what do I need to check to be prepared for this algorithm?
Having a mobile website is fine, but you need to ensure that it meets Google guidelines. This means that you have to have rel=alternate, rel=Canonical and other Mobile SEO factors configured correctly.
Does every page need to be Mobile-Friendly?
Yes, Google have stated the Mobile-Friendly algorithm is a Page based algorithm, meaning if you just have a mobile home page that directs users to Desktop pages, those pages won’t do well in organic search results.
What if I have a responsive website in development but it won’t be ready by April 21?
Google have stated the Mobile-Friendly algorithm will be “real-time”, inferring websites that update their website to meet guidelines after April 21 will see improvements. I’m skeptical about this mainly from a resourcing point of view; Google can’t be everywhere at once, so how long before Google crawls this page again and identifies it meets it’s mobile guidelines? And what happens if it doesn’t meet it this time round? Then you have to fix it again!
Furthermore, many SEOs are skeptical that there’s been any Penguin or Panda updates since October. These algorithms were reported to be rolling (or real-time). Bottom line here is get this done as soon as you can. Don’t rely on Google to review your site on April 23 and recover your rankings – do it now!
What if I have a Mobile-Friendly website, but it’s really slow?
While no word has come out about Mobile PageSpeed, Google was spotted testing a red Slow label snippet in Mobile Search results on February 25th (the day before Google announced the Mobile-Friendly algorithm). I don’t believe in coincidence when in comes to Google, so I’m betting on Mobile PageSpeed being a factor in the Mobile-Friendly algorithm. For insights into Mobile PageSpeed, check out Google’s PageSpeed Insights tool, GTMetrix for a more comprehensive view (create a free account, enter your URL and then click advanced settings, select Mobile and your closest server location). You can also check Search Appearance > Mobile Usability in Webmaster Tools to see if Google have flagged any issues on your site.