WHAT WAS GOOGLE’S “MOBILE-FRIENDLY” UPDATE
Prior to the launch of its mobile-friendly update in April of 2015, Google had been busy preparing the world for the impending “Mobilegeddon.” Back in 2013, Google unveiled its configuration recommendations for making websites mobile-friendly, and also published a list of common mobile configuration mistakes. Then, in 2014, Google introduced “Mobile-friendly” tags in its search results to make it easier for mobile searchers to find mobile-optimized content.
In order to qualify for the “Mobile-friendly” tag, a website has to meet the following criteria (which are listed on Google’s Webmaster Central Blog):
- “Avoids software that is not common on mobile devices, like Flash”
- “Uses text that is readable without zooming”
- “Sizes content to the screen so users don’t have to scroll horizontally or zoom”
- “Places links far enough apart so that the correct one can be easily tapped”
Also in 2014, Google began tagging results to indicate if a page might not work on a mobile device. For example, if Adobe Flash was required to view a video on a website, but a searcher’s device didn’t support Flash, Google could display a message that said “Uses Flash. May not work on your device” in its search results.
Clearly, Google wasn’t trying to keep its obsession with improving the mobile web a secret. Back in 2013 the search giant’s Mobile Search team even came out and said, “To improve the search experience for smartphone users and address their pain points, we plan to roll out several ranking changes in the near future that address sites that are misconfigured for smartphone users.”
So, it really wasn’t a big surprise when in February of 2015 Google announced that “Starting April 21, we will be expanding our use of mobile-friendliness as a ranking signal.
This change will affect mobile searches in all languages worldwide and will have a significant impact in our search results. Consequently, users will find it easier to get relevant, high quality search results that are optimized for their devices.”
The update was predicted to have a greater impact on search results than the Penguin and Panda updates from a few years ago. However, Google has yet to release the specific percentage of searches the mobile-friendly update affected. In the graphic below, you can see the percentages of searches affected by some of Google’s previous algorithm updates.
(Just keep in mind that the numbers below reflect changes to both desktop and mobile searches, whereas the mobile-friendly update affected mobile searches only.)
From an SEO perspective, the main takeaway here is a simple one: if you want your website to be as discoverable and as accessible as possible, you need to make sure your site is mobile-friendly.
And what’s more, you need Google to know that it’s mobile friendly. How exactly does one go about doing that? For starters, we recommend doing some testing. In the next section, we’ll walk you through the process of evaluating your website for mobile friendliness.