Google mobile update impacts your business and SEO

Earlier in the year we posted and article titled “Mobile usability now a Google ranking signal in mobile search results” that covered some of the details of Google’s global roll-out of the mobile search algorithm update. What this Google mobile update ultimately means is that Google is starting to boost the rankings of pages and websites that are optimised for mobile devices and starting to penalise those that do not adhere to mobile best-practices. Searchers are now also being serviced with results that better cater to their needs and increase their overall search engine experience by no longer having to tap to zoom or scroll across pages to read content.



What is known about the April 21 Google mobile update?

  • Affects only search rankings on mobile devices
  • Affects search results in all languages globally
  • Applies to individual pages, not entire websites


With all the hype around mobile friendly design and the latest algorithm update it is still crucial to take the bigger search engine optimisation picture into account. Making your website mobile friendly is no replacement for poor or non-existent on-page SEO or off-page SEO. Google, as well as the other search engines, make use of a number of different and constantly changing signals to rank search results. This may result in a competitor with extremely high quality content and strong SEO practices, but without a mobile friendly design to rank above your page that is responsive, but is not as strongly recognised in terms of content and search engine optimisation strength.


If you do not know if your website/web page complies with mobile best practices then you can check those by using the Google Mobile Testing Tool that was made public to the online community in preparation for the update. If you find that some or all of your web pages are not mobile friendly then you can expect to see a drastic drop in mobile search queries due to the Google mobile update. Once you have optimised your pages then the search spiders will automatically pick it up and restore search functionality for those pages.


Google mobile updateGoogle mobile update image credit Google Webmaster Central


Most common mobile-friendly SEO and design questions:


Post Google mobile update it was decided to launch a general FAQ section that provides answers to many of the most commonly asked mobile related questions. If you have any questions that differ to the ones provided below then please feel free to contact us and we will gladly answer then for you.


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

Desktop and/or tablet rankings will not be affected by the mobile update as this update only targets searches from any and all mobile devices.


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

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


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

Individual pages can be tested for “mobile-friendliness” using the Mobile-Friendly Test made available by Google and pasted above. To review site-level information on mobile-friendliness, take a look at the Mobile Usability report in Google Webmaster Tools. This feature’s data is based on the last time your pages were crawled and indexed.


  1. Unfortunately, my mobile-friendly pages won’t be ready until after April 21st. How long before they can be considered mobile-friendly in ranking?

Your web pages are determined to be mobile-friendly or not every time that it is crawled and indexed. This great feature allows you to rectify mistakes without having to wait for a new update to come round. Once a page is mobile-friendly, you can wait for Googlebot for smartphones to naturally (re-)crawl and index the page or you can expedite processing by using Fetch as Google with Submit to Index in Webmaster Tools. For a large volume of URLs, consider submitting a sitemap. 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.


  1. Since the mobile ranking change rolls out on April 21st, if I see no drop in traffic on April 22nd, does that mean that my site’s rankings aren’t impacted?

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


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

If a page is designed to work well on mobile devices, but it’s not passing the Mobile-Friendly Test, the most common reason is that 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:

  • Check if the Mobile-Friendly Test shows blocked resources (often accompanied with a partially rendered image).
  • Allow Googlebot to crawl the necessary files.
  • Double-check that your page passes the Mobile-Friendly Test.
  • Use Fetch as Google with Submit to Index and submit your updated robots.txt to Google to expedite the re-processing of the updated page (or just wait for Google to naturally re-crawl and index). To reiterate, we recommend that site owners allow Googlebot to crawl all resources for a page (including CSS, JavaScript, and images), so that we can properly render, index, and in this case, assess whether the page is mobile-friendly.


  1. What if I link to a site that’s not mobile-friendly?

Your page can still be “mobile-friendly” even if it links to a page that’s not mobile-friendly, such as a page designed for larger screens, like desktops. It’s not the best experience for mobile visitors to go from a mobile-friendly page to a desktop-only page, but hopefully as more sites become mobile-friendly, this will become less of a problem.


  1. 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 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. If your site uses separate mobile URLs or dynamic serving, we recommend reviewing the Mobile SEO guide to make sure Google is properly crawling and indexing your mobile pages.


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

While the mobile-friendly change is important, we still use a variety of signals to rank search results. The intent of the search query is still a very strong signal — so 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 mobile friendly update FAQ’s


  1. What if my audience is desktop only? Then there’s no reason to have a mobile site, right?

Not exactly. Statistics show that more people are going “mobile only” — either because they never had a desktop or because they won’t replace their existing desktop. Additionally, a non-mobile-friendly site may not see many mobile visitors precisely for that reason.

The mobile-friendly update will apply to mobile searches conducted across all sites, regardless of the site’s target audiences’ language, region, or proportion of mobile to desktop traffic.


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

We suggest paying close attention to how the YouTube video is embedded. If you are using the “old-style” <object> embeds in the mobile page, convert to <iframe> embeds for broader compatibility. YouTube now uses 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.


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

Yes, we suggest 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.


  1. 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. Do you foresee any problems with this?

First, keep in mind that we support three mobile configurations and that your website doesn’t have to be responsive to be mobile-friendly. In response to your question, please be cautious about creating a “stripped down” version of your site. While the page may be formatted for mobile, if it doesn’t allow your visitors to easily complete their common tasks or have an overall smooth workflow, it may become frustrating to your visitors and perhaps not worth the effort. 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.


If you need some analysis into the performance of your website or need advice on how to convert your static website into a responsive and performing website, then please contact us and we will gladly assist you. Savvy Sprout successfully converted many websites into modern, attractive, performing and mobile friendly websites that promote interaction and conversion. Our range of design and online specialists are able to cater to all your needs and provide you with a finished product that you can be proud of.


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