Google’s Biggest Change to Date — And What To Do About It

Google’s search update means your site now needs to be mobile-friendly to rank- and having an Android app helps. Here’s some tips for maximising your searchability under these new conditions. Goodbye Search Engine Optimisation, hello Mobile Optimisation for Search.

Google has announced that as of April 21, a website’s mobile-friendliness will have a much greater impact on their search rankings. This update to their search algorithm is one of the biggest changes Google has ever rolled out. But don’t panic! If your site is already mobile-optimised you have little to worry about. Google’s changes mean there are other ways you can improve your ranking, however. Here’s some tips and tricks for making the most of Google’s algorithm update.

1. Mobilise your site. Today.

If you’ve been dragging your feet and your site isn’t mobile-optimised yet, you need to fix that now. Jason Denners from notes: “My suspicion is, considering the level of impact the update is projected to carry, any site without any mobile-friendly qualities will dramatically drop in ranking in mobile searches, and minimally-optimized sites will experience negative fluctuations. Whatever the case may be, it’s clear that April 21st will be more than ‘just another Google update.’”

To find out whether your site is mobile-optimised or not, take Google’s mobile friendliness test.
Check out this advice for optimising third-party software such as Wordpress.
And here’s tools for developers wanting to optimise a website for mobile.

2. See if you can make your mobile site even more friendly

If you have Google’s Webmaster Tools operating, you can use the Mobile Usability Report to get a list issues you can improve for your website to be more mobile-friendly.

And here’s tips for developers to make your mobile website appealing to search engines.

3. Avoid common mobile mistakes

If you’re getting a bad indication from Webmaster Tools, or if you don’t have them operating, there are some basic things you can do to make sure your site is mobile-friendly. Google identifies the most common mistakes they see on websites trying to optimise for mobile, and how to resolve them. The mistakes are:

  • Blocked JavaScript, CSS and image files (Check your robot.txt isn’t blocking Google’s spiders!)
  • Unplayable content (No flash!)
  • Faulty redirects (Check your mobile website links don’t default to the homepage!)
  • Mobile-only 404s (Ensure mobile links go to actual pages!)
  • App download interstitials (No disruptive ‘download now’ popups! Use a banner!)
  • Irrelevant cross-links (Make sure to use relative links so you’re not inadvertently forcing users between mobile and desktop sites!)
  • Slow mobile pages (Use Google’s Pagespeed Insights for tips.)

For more on the solutions to these problems, read Google’s advice here.

4. Get an app and link to it

Google’s not only ranking a site based on mobile optimisation, it’s also going to prefer sites that can link to an app on the person’s Android phone. As 89% of all mobile browsing in the US is now done through an app, and mobile browsing recently surpassed desktop browsing, this makes sense for them. To stay relevant as a search engine, Google has to make it easy for you to switch between your browser and your apps which are easier to navigate. The increasing use of deep links provides a bridge between mobile browsing and apps — if you have a deep link in your webpage, users can click on this and their device will automatically open your app. Similar to the way you can click on a phone number now and it’ll automatically start calling the person. Google’s Webmaster provides this advice on doing this:

“When users open your content from Google Search results or query autocompletions on Android, App Indexing can automatically bring the user right to your app. For this to happen, the user needs to have your app installed, and you need to do two things: establish the relationship between your web pages and app deep links, and integrate the App Indexing API. To do this, follow the steps below:

Google has signaled that this change will create a profound shakeup of the search environment. Get in the lead by ensuring your mobile friendliness is up to scratch — or you may find yourself left behind.

Stay tuned for the next blog on the takeover of mobile browsing.