Digital Marketing

Google’s Gary Illyes Discusses Mobile as a Ranking Factor

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BONUS! Watch our Live Virtual Keynote Online Event on “All Things Mobile” withGoogle’s Gary Illyes and Eric Enge.
Google’s Gary Illyes recently was gracious enough to answer questions about the new “Mobile-Friendly” ranking factor, as well as other SEO related topics.
Mobile Friendly Sites Get a Rankings Boost
Eric Enge, Question 1: This Search Engine Land article provides a lot of information on what it takes to earn “mobile-friendly” status with Google. The article lists these 4 criteria:

  1. Avoids software that is not common on mobile devices, like Flash
  2. Uses text that is readable without zooming
  3. Sizes content to the screen so users don’t have to scroll horizontally or zoom
  4. Places links far enough apart so that the correct one can be easily tapped

Does this mean that other factors, such as page load time, or periodic server problems (i.e. 503s and 404s), are NOT included as a factor in earning this label?
Gary Illyes: We are of course looking for ways to improve the coverage and accuracy of this label, but currently if a URL comes back positive on the Mobile-Friendly Test, the specific URL will get a mobile-friendly label in our search results. This tool is the best resource for learning about the criteria we are currently using.
Output From Google's Mobile Friendly Tool
Indirectly server errors can also play a role: if a page is coming back with 404 HTTP status code, we won’t index it so it can’t get a mobile-friendly label, and the same applies on most of the other error codes.
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Eric Enge, Question 2: Is this mobile-friendly designation available to ANY site that meets the guidelines? Or is it only available to sites that meet authority or trust related metrics.
Gary Illyes: Yes, this is for any site and page that meets the criteria. Currently, if the page passes the checks in the Mobile-Friendly Test, it gets a badge; it’s that simple. For future updates on the mobile-friendliness front, also keep an eye on the Mobile usability report in Google Webmaster Tools, which highlights major mobile usability issues across your entire site, not just one page. It’s probably the quickest way to learn about what site-wide usability issues we think you should fix.
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Eric Enge, Question 3: Google has been putting more and more emphasis on user experience lately. You discussed this quite a bit at SMX East. Can you share your thoughts on why this is so important to Google?
Gary Illyes: That’s easy: whatever we do, it’s about the user. We want them happy and if we can contribute to their happiness, we will. I think it’s pretty clear that mobile-friendly websites provide a much better user experience for mobile users. Studies consistently reflect this, as an example, 61% of users are unlikely to return to a mobile site that they had trouble accessing from their phone. We’re putting more emphasis on UX because we simply want users to enjoy the web, regardless of what device they’re using or where they are.
Eric Enge, Question 4: What are the 2 or 3 most serious UX problems you see with regard to mobile?
Gary Illyes: I wouldn’t pick just 2 or 3, actually. We’ve identified quite a few in our Mobile Usability article and they include illegible text caused by small font sizes, the necessity for excessive panning and zooming, or elements that are hard to click. Fixing these is a great first step, but then there are other problems which the PageSpeed Insights tool can highlight.
Output From Google's Page Speed Tool
 
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Eric Enge, Question 5: Recently Google announced that HTTPS had been made a ranking factor. You and I also sat on a panel at SMX East where we talked about the impact. Can you talk about the scenarios in which this might actually make a difference in the rankings?
Gary Illyes: You came up with a pretty good way to describe it just before our session at SMX, when you said it’s like the Vice President acting as a tiebreaker in a 50-50 Senate vote. All things being equal in two results, it can make a difference for the result that is using the HTTPS protocol. It’s important to note though that we use hundreds of signals to rank our results, and while the HTTPS signal is one of them, it doesn’t carry as much weight as relevance for example.
HTTPS is a Weak Ranking Factor
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Eric Enge, Question 6: Another UX concern is the publisher’s site itself. The recent Panda 4.1 update was the 27th update of that algorithm. Can you talk about the most common content quality problems people have with their web sites?
Gary Illyes: I’m not involved in anything Panda, but the 23 points we shared in 2011 are still relevant and the best resource to fix Panda related issues. We’ve seen sites that managed to recover from Panda’s effect using these guidelines.
Eric Enge, Question 7: When someone has an eCommerce site with tens of thousands of pages, or more, how would you suggest they look at incorporating content on the product pages of their web site?
Eric Enge, Question 8: What would you advise for consumer coupon sites? Sites like these have so many pages, are seen as valuable to users, but are challenging to get lots of original content on every page. What can they do to avoid being seen as poor quality sites by Google’s algos (including Panda)?
Gary Illyes: For 7 & 8, it’s actually very important for a business to stand out when there are many sites selling the same product, and I strongly believe that it is possible to get high quality and unique content on any product page. For example, some users like to write reviews; that’s already something that other users will appreciate. Product tests are more involved but they are, again, a great source for unique, valuable information. Personally, I find both of these kinds of content to be really useful.
Eric Enge, Question 9: One interesting aspect of this is John Mueller has indicated that going forward Penguin updates will be more frequent. What form will that take? Would it be monthly-ish like Panda has become, or something else?
Gary Illyes: The feedback on our recent Penguin refresh was, as far as I can tell, better than for previous refreshes. We are indeed looking into how we can make Penguin refreshes more regular like Panda’s, but since I’m not involved in these algorithms’ development I don’t know at what stage are we at.
Google's Gary Illyes
About Gary Illyes: Gary Illyes is a webmaster trends analyst dedicated to creating a better search experience for users by helping webmasters create amazing websites. When not crunching data to find ways to improve web search, Gary is contributing to the Webmaster Central Blog and helps users debug their websites in the Google Webmaster Forums.
Prior joining Google in 2011, Gary was teaching online journalism in Romania and abroad. He was a technical consultant for several high profile media outlets, and he spent his free time on online forums helping webmasters troubleshoot web- and news-search related issues. He has studied IT at the University of Phoenix and holds an associate’s degree in journalism from the Ady Endre College of Journalism in Romania.

About the Author

Eric Enge leads the Digital Marketing practice for Perficient. He designs studies and produces industry-related research to help prove, debunk, or evolve assumptions about digital marketing practices and their value. Eric is a writer, blogger, researcher, teacher, and keynote speaker and panelist at major industry conferences. Partnering with several other experts, Eric served as the lead author of The Art of SEO.

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Thoughts on “Google’s Gary Illyes Discusses Mobile as a Ranking Factor”

  1. There’s a mention or two here of the site as a whole, but I don’t think Google’s been sufficiently clear so far about whether the “mobile-friendly” badge is for a page or a site. If my landing page provides a great experience for mobile users, but every link on that page takes the user to a page that they can’t read, will Google still consider my landing page to be worthy of the badge?

  2. Hi Bob – good to hear from you here. You are right that they have not been totally clear about this, but I would bet that this operates at a page level. But, I could be wrong about that!

  3. Any advice for how to convince my company’s higher ups that mobile is something we need to take seriously?
    Our site is not mobile friendly, but management is not keen on change, since the site would need to be completely redesigned. I’m worried that our rankings have dipped a bit because of the lack of mobile-friendly pages.
    Thanks for the insight!

  4. Hi Mike – My suggestion would to go into analytics and show them what percentage of the site’s traffic is coming from mobile devices today. It’s fairly easily found in Google Analytics, if you are using that. Then show them what the current mobile user’s experience looks like.
    Most sites get at least 30% of their traffic from mobile devices today, and if the mobile experience is really bad, it is costing you business.

  5. Eric its really wonderful interview. Like your interview. Thanks to share with us.
    Bob I think google still researching on mobile SEO 🙂

  6. Hi Eric,
    Great interview. Just wondering what was the search term that produced the result to display mobile friendly in the SERP’s. I Googled this on a mobile in the UK and did not see this tag. Maybe it hasn’t rolled out in UK yet.
    Cheers
    Mik

  7. The term I used was “knowledge box study”. Note that the labels only show when you do the search from a mobile device.

  8. Hi Eric,
    Very good interview and thanks for sharing.
    I was actually doing some searches on the iPhone when I saw the posts from Danny Sullivan & Barry Schwarz on SEW and noticed a client (along with my own newly branded site!) had homepage ‘Mobile-friendly’ labels, but a lot of landing pages didn’t. This is obviously going to be a huge (massive) job for a lot of large eCommerce sites out there.
    Lots of fun ahead!
    Thanks again,
    Joe

  9. Eric – great post again..i read one of your old ones but could not comment…I think mobile is going to be a great factor espc in 2015 SEO….and you are right google is showing it on smartphone google searches too ( probably increases click-thru)

  10. Thank you for the article, Gary.
    My site get a “mobile friendly” result on the test, but it has not the same label in the search results. How do you think why?
    Thank you.

  11. Google wrote that one of three ways to make a site mobile friendly is to have the non-mobile site redirect to mobile friendly pages when it detects that a search is being made on a mobile device. If a website landing page is not mobile friendly but successfully redirects to a mobile friendly page when it detects that a mobile device is making the search, will it get a mobile friendly status?

  12. Thanks for putting your valuable thoughts on things above, great conversation indeed! I think, mobile is going to be the future of seo, however Google has clearly shown it to all the internet marketers and already taken a great step to optimize mobile seo to maximum. If someone is lacking in particular then problems are big-bigger-biggest! I read above conversation carefully and got some new tips to make sure my approach is going in positive direction. Thank-you very much for this awesome post!

  13. Thanks for putting your valuable thoughts on things above, great conversation indeed! I think, mobile is going to be the future of seo, however Google has clearly shown it to all the internet marketers and already taken a great step to optimize mobile seo to maximum. If someone is lacking in particular then problems are big-bigger-biggest! I read above conversation carefully and got some new tips to make sure my approach is going in positive direction. Thank-you very much for this awesome post!

  14. AMP is not a ranking factor. If you were an actual news site, you could get into the AMP news carousel, and that would be awesome for traffic, but for any other site there is no ranking benefit.

  15. Hi Eric,
    Thanks for this awesome interview. I am beginner i love to read the latest SEO and Google latest algorithm updates.

  16. Mark Traphagen

    Actually Google stated publicly last year that the mobile searches had surpassed desktop searches globally.

  17. Really nice article. For sure Illyes Discusses mobile can be an important ranking factor. I was just looking to increase the traffic of my website.

  18. It is really good learning as every body is going to have mobile in hands and searching internet so no ranking factor is obvious……

  19. HTTPS is a very small ranking factor that applies to both mobile and desktop. By very small, that means that is really only acts as a tiebreaker, when all other ranking factors are equal. There are many reasons to switch to HTTPS, but SEO is not one of them.

  20. Awesome post about mobile seo tips, and how to use seo technique to improve online presence all are explained in detail here. thanks for sharing. how I can connect to you for new update on your blog.

  21. Hello Eric,
    I must say great work. Your post is amazingly viral on the social media and the great conversation indeed! I think, mobile search is going to be the future of search engine optimization, Google has clearly shown it to all the online marketers and already taken a great step to optimize mobile-friendly websites to maximum. I read above conversation carefully and I’m very grateful to you, to got some new tips to make sure my approach is going in positive direction. Thanks

  22. amazing post of mobile SEO. really informative.
    web design
    description: Graphic & Web Designer in Dubai – UAE – Work with you as a team to achieve your goals. With over 10 years of experience working as a graphic – web designer in Dubai, Abu Dhabi – United Arab Emirates, I know where to focus in-order to get results to achieve your goals. Quality is the key when it comes to design and therefore I don’t compromise in Quality.

  23. I do agree that mobile friendly websites are not getting ranking while old age websites before having good ranking is now getting down on search engine in case of not mobile friendly.

  24. Nowadays, mobile-friendly websites are getting more traffic and higher rank in google. However, I don’t agree with @Adham’s saying about old and new sites mobile friendly ranking factor. In my opinion, if you have good content and mobile friendly website then you’ll get the perks of great ranking.

  25. I must say great work. Your post is amazingly viral on the social media and the great conversation indeed! I think, mobile search is going to be the future of search engine optimization, Google has clearly shown it to all the online marketers and already taken a great step to optimize mobile-friendly websites to maximum. I read above conversation carefully and I’m very grateful to you, to got some new tips to make sure my approach is going in positive direction. Thanks

  26. If you’re asking whether AMP is required for a website, the answer is no. But properly implemented, AMP can make your site faster on mobile.

  27. That’s why it is very important for a company to have a good business app to better communicate with its potential customers. … With the growing number of people accessing the Internet via smartphones and tablets, mobile app development has the unique ability to access a large number of potential consumers.

  28. I should state incredible work. Your post is incredibly popular on the online networking and the extraordinary discussion without a doubt! I think, portable hunt will be the eventual fate of site improvement, Google has plainly demonstrated it to all the online advertisers and as of now made an incredible move to advance versatile cordial sites to greatest. I read above discussion deliberately and I’m exceptionally thankful to you, to got some new tips to ensure my methodology is going positive way. Much obliged

  29. Thanks for sharing mobile ranking factor.
    I am a blogger and know the appearance on your website on mobile, but to rank your site first you need to make your site mobile responsive..
    after mobile first index algorithm, Expert has started to optimize your site for mobile..

  30. I starting blogging 5 to 6 years from now…what i am noticing that more people are checking websites on smartphones then on their Mac books. Because its accessible anytime and anywhere….So mobile ranking factor is really important.

  31. Ive been looking to get my website in google’s good graces so this informative and helpful also it make sense the mobile friendliness will play an increase role in SEM since more people than ever web browse with a mobile devices out of convenience.

  32. Yes Yes Yes That’s why it is very important for a company to have a good business app to better communicate with its potential customers. … With the growing number of people accessing the Internet via smartphones and tablets, mobile app development has the unique ability to access a large number of potential consumers.

  33. You are absolutely right. Mobile SEO is one the top trends in 2019. 50 to 70 percents searches done on mobile. Now a day’s people check website’s on mobile rather than laptops or desktops. That’s why, many big companies or organizations developed mobile apps for their businesses.
    Thanks for sharing such a informative post.

  34. You are Absolutely right about Mobile as Major Ranking Factor..So, recently Google Launched AMP (Accelerated Mobile Pages) which reduce the load time up-to 50% for the Mobile page.

  35. I Personally think that google is increasing Competitiveness, Protection and Spam websites out of the business….That’s the reason google had pointed Mobile as a ranking which will make quality site to raise in search engine optimization.

  36. Yes, AMP can be used on a custom PHP website, but you’ll need to learn how to code in AMP.

  37. Thanks for the advice-I just checked my analytics and found that more then 50 percent users were using mobile as their gadget to access website. AMP is absolutely great.

  38. How do I make an AMP website for my web design portfolio site? Any tips or example would be appreciated.

  39. I never knew that https means that a website is secure. I would want to make sure that I don’t transfer any information over any sites that wouldn’t be safe. That way you reduce the risk of your identity being stolen.

  40. Hi Eric, Nice Interview! Mobile seo factor is important nowadays. Should be user intent help for mobile seo. Any tools available for best keywords for mobile seo.

  41. Gary Illyes on Google’s search index: Google employee Gary Illyes made it clear on Twitter that Google only has one search index. In Google’s search index, all characteristics of a URL are documented.

  42. I think 80% op people using smartphones today for very big or small works. According to google update, they are tracking people every where, so its easy to know what they are thinking about any brand or business.

  43. Its a nice approch to create a AMP pages but some times it will create some issue and because of this lots of devices will respond not corretly.

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