Today on Google Webmaster Central it was announced that Google updated its search algorithm on mobile so that websites that are “mobile-friendly” will be favored in search results. Mobile-friendly for a website generally means that the website loads fast and has a mobile UI that is easy to navigate. Specifically, two changes will become apparent with this updated algorithm.
First Change: More Mobile-Friendly Websites In Search Results
Google hopes that users will “find it easier to get relevant, high quality search results that are optimized for their devices.” If you want to get started on optimizing the mobile version of your website, you can use two tools. If you only want to test a few pages of your site, use the Mobile-Friendly Test. To get a full list of mobile usability issues for the whole site, use the Mobile Usability Report. Google also provides a guide for building sites that are mobile-friendly from the start.
Second Change: More Relevant App Content In Search Results
Google Search has also been updated with app indexing. When you search for something, like restaurant reviews in Yelp, you will be provided with an app install link next to the search results, and when you press the install button, it will bring you to Google Play, and the app will open with the information you searched for displayed first. To help developers implement this new feature for their apps, there is a step-by-step guide.
In Q3 of 2014, the Global Web Index found that among the 90% of global Internet users surveyed, 80% of adults owned a smartphone and almost 50% owned a tablet, and 75% and 37% respectively using their device to browse the Internet. Also in 2014 Google added User Experience recommendations to their PageSpeed Insights tool.
In their Mobile SEO guide, Google made a list of three mobile configurations possible for site owners: Responsive Web Design, Dynamic Serving and Separate URLs. The pros and cons of each are provided, but a basic summary of each is:
- Responsive Web Design is where the same HTML code is sent to all devices, but the browser is given instructions on how to adjust the page to fit the screen, known as rendering.
- Dynamic Serving is a separate version of the site design that is created for mobile users, but the URL of the desktop website is retained. The HTML and CSS code are served to different devices depending on the user agent.
- Separate URLs is where the webmaster maintains two separate websites: a desktop version and a mobile version. Instead of the desktop version getting scaled down for mobile, the mobile website is completely different, with a separate subdomain such as www.m.example.com, with the “m” being mobile. Similar to Dynamic Serving, it depends on user agent detection to provide the right version for your device.
The real question here though is whether this new update will hurt small business owners. The websites that will suffer will be the ones that only feature a desktop-oriented design. Depending on your website, adapting your website can be easy or hard.