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The Aftermath of Google’s Mobile-Friendly Algorithm Update

The Aftermath of Google’s Mobile-Friendly Algorithm UpdateWhen Google announced in late February that the mobile-friendliness of web pages was going to be pushed as a ranking factor for mobile search results, the response was staggering. Media outlets that normally don’t report on SEO trends were picking up the story and plastering headlines that read something like “Mobilegeddon is coming” across the web.
While the exact mechanics of Google’s algorithms have always been a bit of a black box, we can say this about the mobile update:

  1. For users searching on a desktop computer or a tablet device, there won’t be an impact to rankings from this update. Google has always assured webmasters that mobile phone search results were the only focus.
  2. This update affects rankings for individual pages, not a whole site. This means that mobile-friendly pages will not be penalized if there are mobile-unfriendly pages elsewhere on the same website.
  3. There shouldn’t be an impact on paid search programs.  A mobile-unfriendly page will not raise costs or lose position in Adwords placements, as far as we know now.
  4. Google has defined mobile-friendliness as pass-fail (for a given page) using the test they published here.
  5. Responsive design, m-dot addresses, and dynamic serving are being treated as equal technologies for getting that “passing grade.” (At least for now!)
  6. Web pages that become mobile-friendly are being recognized as such by Google in as little as 24 hours.
  7. Mobile-unfriendly pages can still rank high on mobile search results. This is especially true for brand-term searches because the “owner” of a brand name gets preference in Google’s algorithms.
  8. Non-brand keywords on mobile-unfriendly pages will be more difficult to obtain or retain top rankings for, especially if competitors are mobile-friendly.
  9. Rankings have not changed as much as anticipated, but it’s early yet.  Enlighten has been tracking mobile search ranks daily for thirteen of our clients’ sites.  In the two weeks since the update, non-mobile-friendly sites did lose ground in mobile results but the worst case was only a 6% loss (an average rank of 10 dropped to an average rank of 10.6 for example).  Mobile-friendly sites gained ground, getting at best a 5-6% rise in position.

The bottom line is that Google wants a good experience for mobile users and they are using their authority to push site owners toward providing just that. Judging by the 4.7% increase in mobile-friendly websites in the two months prior to “mobile judgment day”, Google is getting what they wanted.
Having mobile-friendly pages is a win for everyone (including, very importantly, your customers).   As your neighborly digital agency, we recommend considering the user intent of mobile searches, i.e. what those in-car and downtown-visiting people might be looking for on their phones. It is important to ignore the hysteria and remember to develop your digital presence around pleasing humans, not Google.

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