Know It All About The Mobile-Friendly Algorithm!

Apr 22, 2015 | 1,870 views | by Ritu Sharma
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Google announced the mobile friendly update in February, that will boost the rankings of mobile-friendly pages — pages that are legible and usable on mobile devices — in mobile search results worldwide. It has finally released and here are the most frequently asked questions:

General FAQs

1. Will desktop and/or tablet ranking also be affected by this change?

No, this update does not affects searches from tablets or desktops. It affects searches from mobile devices across all languages and locations.

2. Is it a page-level or site-level mobile ranking boost?

It’s a page-level change. For example if eight of your website’s pages are mobile-friendly, but the rest of your pages aren’t, only the eight mobile-friendly pages can be positively impacted.

3. How would I know if Google thinks a page on my site is mobile-friendly?

For this you may use the Mobile-Friendly Test where individual pages can be tested for “mobile-friendliness”.

mobile image 1 Know It All About The Mobile Friendly Algorithm!

Check the Mobile Usability report in Webmaster Tools to review site-level information on mobile-friendliness. This feature’s data is based on the last time Google crawled and indexed your site’s pages.

mobile image 2 Know It All About The Mobile Friendly Algorithm!

4. What if my mobile-friendly pages don’t get ready until after April 21st. How long will it take before they can be considered mobile-friendly in ranking?

Google determines whether a page is mobile-friendly every time it’s crawled and indexed by them. You don’t have to wait for another update. Once your page is mobile-friendly, you can wait for Googlebot for smartphones to naturally (re-)crawl and index the page or you can fasten the process by using Fetch as Google with Submit to Index in Webmaster Tools. Consider submitting a sitemap for a large volume of URLs. In the sitemap, if your mobile content uses pre-existing URLs (such as with Responsive Web Design or dynamic serving), also include the lastmod tag.

5. If I see no drop in traffic on April 22nd, does that mean that my site’s rankings aren't impacted?

Google has begun rolling out the mobile-friendly update on April 21st, but it’ll be a week or so before it makes its way to all pages in the index. So, you won't be able to definitively determine whether your site’s rankings are impacted by the mobile-friendly update by April 22nd.

6. I have a great mobile site, but the Mobile-Friendly Test tells me that my pages aren't mobile-friendly. Why?

If your page is designed to work well on mobile devices but unfortunately is not passing the Mobile-Friendly Test, the most common reason is that the Googlebot for smartphones is blocked from crawling resources, like CSS and JavaScript, that are critical for determining whether the page is legible and usable on a mobile device (i.e., whether it’s mobile-friendly). To remedy:

mobile image 3 Know It All About The Mobile Friendly Algorithm!

7. What if I link to a site that is not mobile-friendly?

Even if it links to a page that’s not mobile-friendly, your page can still be “mobile-friendly”.

8. Does Google give a stronger mobile-friendly ranking to pages using Responsive Web Design (which uses the same URL and the same HTML for the desktop and mobile versions) vs. hosting a separate mobile site (like www for desktop and m.example.com for mobile)?

No, mobile-friendliness is assessed the same, whether you use responsive web design (RWD), separate mobile URLs, or dynamic serving for your configuration. Google recommends reviewing the Mobile SEO guide if your site uses separate mobile URLs or dynamic serving, to make sure that Google is properly crawling and indexing your mobile pages.

9. Will my site / page disappear on mobile search results if it's not mobile-friendly?

Google still uses a variety of signals to rank search results and the intent of the search query is still a very strong signal. Even if a page with high quality content is not mobile-friendly, it could still rank high if it has great content for the query.

Specialized FAQs

10. What if my audience is desktop only, then there’s no reason to go mobile, right?

Statistics show that more people are going mobile reason being that they never had a desktop or because they won’t replace their existing desktop. It should be noted that the mobile-friendly update will apply to mobile searches conducted across all sites, irrespective of the site’s target audiences’ language, region, or proportion of mobile to desktop traffic.

11. I have pages showing mobile usability errors because they embed a YouTube video. What can I do?

If you are using the “old-style” <object> embeds in the mobile page, convert to <iframe> embeds for broader compatibility. YouTube is now using the HTML5 player on the web by default, so it’s mobile-friendly to embed videos using the <iframe> tags from the “share” feature on the watch page or from the YouTube iFrame API. If you have a more complex integration, that should also be mobile-friendly, since it’ll instruct the device to use the device’s native support. For Flash content from sites other than YouTube, check if there is an equivalent HTML5 embed tag or code snippet to avoid using proprietary plugins.

12. Is there a clear standard for sizing tap targets?

Google suggests a minimum of 7mm width/height for primary tap targets and a minimum margin of 5mm between secondary tap targets. The average width of an adult's finger pad is 10mm, and these dimensions can provide a usable interface while making good use of screen real estate.

13. To become mobile-friendly quickly, we’re thinking of creating a very stripped down version of our site (separate mobile pages) until our new responsive site is complete. Are there any problems with this?

First, keep in mind that Google supports three mobile configurations and that your website doesn't have to be responsive to be mobile-friendly. Please be cautious about creating a “stripped down” version of your site. Should a temporary mobile site be created, once the RWD is live, be sure to move the site properly. For example, update all links so they no longer reference the separate mobile URLs and 301 redirect mobile URLs to their corresponding RWD version.

So here is a list of questions and answers that will help you to understand mobile-friendly algorithm more closely.

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Ritu from PageTraffic is a qualified Google Adwords Professional and Content Head at PageTraffic. She has been the spear head for many successful Search Marketing Campaigns and currently oversees Content Marketing operations of PageTraffic in India.