Added: We have an updated guide Everything You Need to Know About the Mobile Friendly Algo, which is updated with this information and more.
At SMX West today, Gary Illyes was put on the hot seat by SEOs and moderator Barry Schwartz on the upcoming mobile changes to Google’s ranking algorithm for searchers on mobile devices. Here is what we learned.
Responsive does not have a ranking benefit
Because Google has been pushing responsive design as a way to handle mobile traffic, some people wondered if the only solution was to also use responsive because it could give a rankings boost. However, Gary Illyes says that they recommended it because it worked well for Google, so they believed that solution would work for almost everyone. That said, webmasters do not have to use responsive for mobile, as other mobile site choices work just as well. He reiterated that responsive design does not have a ranking benefit.
Mobile friendliness is page by page
When determining if a page is mobile friendly, Google bases this on a page by page case. So passing some pages, or even most pages, as mobile friendly will not mean your entire site passes the check. All pages must be mobile friendly.
Will there be a specific tablet only ranking factor for those using tablets?
According to Gary Illyes, Google does not have any plans at this time to have anything specific for tablet rankings.
Will this change go live on April 21st or is there wiggle room?
Illyes would not comment much on this, other than “I will say April 21st is a very important day.”
Is there a cut off date when sites need to be mobile ready for?
He wouldn’t say if there was a delay between getting a site mobile friendly and when it will rank accordingly, he did say to just “have them ready by the 21st and it will be good.”
How long is the delay between making it mobile friendly and it being reflected in the search results?
Illyes says “As soon as we discover it is mobile friendly, on a URL by URL basis, it will be updated.
Will Google also release another update such as Penguin or Panda on the same day to confuse webmasters?
Illyes said “I’m not aware of anything else that is changing on that day.” That said, things could change between now and then.
Is there any possibility of this change impacting desktop?
Illyes says that “to the best of my knowledge, no.” Of course, webmasters will take that as you will.
Is Google considering a completely separate mobile index in the future?
Illyes dropped a bit of a bombshell by saying that Google already has plans for this and there is a team already working on it. He isn’t sure what stage they are at, so Google has nothing to announce about it at this time. (More here: Google is Working on Completely Separate Mobile Index From Desktop Index)
Google doesn’t need to see noscript if they can crawl it
For more coverage on the mobile changes: Google’s Mobile Ranking Boost Will Be Stronger Than HTTPS Ranking Boost; Google is Working on Completely Separate Mobile Index From Desktop Index; Google Mobile Friendly Ranking Signal Affects Non-English Search Results Too
Photo credit: Steve Boymel
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Here’s a related article about testing done by Alan Bleiweiss on google’s mobile friendly results: http://www.searchenginejournal.com/flawed-google-mobile-usability-test-results/127623/
hi ive been approached by my seo company saying that I need to pay them a large amount of money to make my site mobile friendly or I will drop in rankings……I feel like im being held to ransom, if I didn’t do this will my rankings slip???
Jennifer Slegg says
If your site is not mobile friendly, you will be less prominent in the mobile search results but not desktop. However there definitely are a lot of people out there trying to take advantage of the change and use it as a cash grab… hard to say if “a large amount of money” is reasonable or not.
ok thanks Jennifer I appreciate your feedback, after reading all the posts and relevant info I should upgrade to mobile friendly 🙂
Andrea Anderheggen says
Great article and really cool to get information from the source!
However, one point that I was missing is the part on apps indexing, that Google announced as well.
On the first glance it looks like they just list Android/iOS Apps as well. – But if you think further, I believe it would make sense from a Google point of view to use apps as criteria for relevance of their search results.
A business or website investing in apps, that are then also checked by Apple and Google before being published in their app stores, may have a higher chance to be „serious“ and/or relevant. If I’d be Google (and they are smarter then me), I’d use apps as an indicator for a site quality.
We at Shopgate (www.shopgate.com) offer a platform for eCommerce stores to create both: mobile friendly websites as well as native apps for iOS and Android. We’ve gone the extra mile of offering apps to our retail customers, because we have actually seen that they bring a considerable uplift in mobile sales. I’m mentioning this, because where there are more online sales, the core Google business model of online advertisement works better as well… So even from a business point of view it makes perfectly sense for Google to promote sites with apps. They call it “indexing” for now. 😉
Kathleen Allardyce says
It sounds like you are saying that all pages in a site must be mobile. If not, the entire site will be penalized. But, according to Gary himself, that’s not the case. The non-mobile pages won’t rank, but that won’t hurt the rest of the pages on the site that are mobile.
Jennifer Slegg says
I think you might have misread what I wrote… it definitely is page by page.