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Google's Mobile-Friendly Ranking Factor Rolls Out in April


Google has made a formal announcement about their mobile algorithm change. April 21st marks the day that Google will be rolling out their mobile-friendly ranking factor into their algorithm. Google said that this new ranking factor will run in real-time, so if you do miss this April 21st deadline, you should see your rankings shortly improve after you fix your site and you have mobile capability. Watch this Daily Brown Bag to learn how you can check to see if your site is mobile-ready. In addition, you’ll learn about Google’s Mobile-Friendly Test, the Webmaster’s Mobile Guide and how to make your site mobile-friendly.

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Hello, and welcome to the Daily Brown Bag. Today, we’re going to be talking about Google’s announcement of mobile-friendly being a search ranking factor. I’m Chad Hill, and I’m joined by Adam Stetzer.

Good morning, Chad. Welcome to the Brown Bag. This is a cool topic. We’ve got an actual due date, an announcement, some news here from Google, Chad. We’ve been advising our clients for years that they need to make their sites mobile-friendly. This is really important for the users. We know that 30% of consumers will abandon a site if they have trouble loading or viewing the site on their mobile device. Google obviously knows this as well, which is why they’ve been warning webmasters for a long time that mobile compatibility would eventually be part of the ranking algorithm. It’s no surprise here that the day has finally arrived.

April 21st: The day that Google Will Be Rolling Out Their Mobile-friendly Ranking Factor into Their Algorithm

Google has made a formal announcement to fulfill their promise. It’s that on April 21st -- coming up shortly here, Chad -- they will be rolling out their mobile-friendly ranking factor into their algorithm. There’s some good news -- and it probably will bring some fear to webmasters who have been ignoring the call for mobile and are not mobile-friendly -- but there is some really good news here.

Your Site Can Benefit If It's Mobile-friendly

According to Google, the new ranking factor will run in real-time -- so even if you miss the April 21st date for Google’s mobile algorithm change -- it means that shortly after you fix your site and you have mobile capability, you should see your rankings improve if you did take a hit because you missed the deadline. They are also going to run this on a page-by-page basis, Chad. That means that your mobile-friendly pages will benefit you immediately, even if other pages on your site are not mobile-friendly. I think we would say, of course, focus on the homepage, which is where the majority of your traffic probably enters your site. That should be your first target. If you don’t have the budget to hit all of them, take a look at your entrances and your Google Analytics and figure out where most people hit your site first. Make sure those are mobile optimized if you can’t do the whole site.

How Do You Check to Know if You Are Mobile-ready?

There are a lot of tools out there, Adam, that will help you determine this. I think we always recommend that you go right to the horse’s mouth and use Google’s tools.

Webmaster Tools

So, if you have claimed your Webmaster Tools, there is a component in Webmaster Tools that will let you know which pages are mobile-friendly and it will actually flag some issues. For example, if it determines that your components are too close together, it will give you a few alerts and warnings. If you don’t have a Webmaster Tools claim, here’s the link to Google’s Mobile-Friendly Test. Again, you plug-in your URL, it goes through and identifies any mobile issues you might have.

Webmaster’s Mobile Guide

The other thing that Google has put out is they do have a Webmaster’s Mobile Guide that will help you determine what the best path is because there really are two paths.

How Can You Make Your Site Mobile-friendly?


1. Use a Responsive Website Design

One path is to make the whole website responsive, which basically means that -- no matter what screen size you are using -- the same page will scale down to the screen. Or there are still people who choose to create a distinct mobile website, either at a different domain or sub-directory that has specific pages just optimized for mobile.

Generally, we’re finding that most people find it’s just easier to go the responsive path or route -- that way you’re not dealing with maintaining two sets of pages. Again, some people find that the experience of a page specifically built for mobile can actually have a better conversion rate or answer someone’s questions better.

There are a few other points here on how to make your site mobile-friendly. We talked about responsive website design. There are tons of themes out there -- out of the box -- that are going to be mobile-friendly. A lot of the theme builders or site-builder type sites also have mobile-friendly sites, so this is something that, as you said, Adam, has been out there for a number of years. This isn’t new. Anybody who is building a new site -- it’s going to be responsive.

2. Keep Your Website Clean & Simple

You want to make sure you do keep your website clean and simple. Really, really complicated things don’t translate well to small websites.

3. Prominently Display your Phone Number & Address on Your Site

Another couple of points here -- especially if you are a business that gets phone calls -- you want to make sure that your phone number is prominently placed, typically in the upper part of the screen. We always advise clients to put it in the upper right hand corner, but, when that does scale down to a smaller screen, most mobile web browsers will see a phone number and turn that into a clickable event, which is, of course, what you want. You want people to be able to very easily click and be able to get your phone number.

4. Provide a Link to Google Maps

The same is true for your address. Again, most of the mobile browsers -- if you format an address especially if you use something like schema.org -- those browsers will very easily be able to turn your address into a link to a map service, whether it’s Apple Maps or it’s Google Maps, depending on what OS you’re on for your mobile device. That’s definitely an important thing. Again, those are some of the main takeaways that we have, especially if you’re a local business. If you’re an ecommerce business (we deal with fewer of those), there are probably a whole host of other things you need to be thinking about. The main point here is this is the first time we’ve ever had Google tell us that, “On the 21st, we’re changing our algorithm; here’s what we’re doing.” This is a very big change for people in the SEO world.

Takeaways on Google's Mobile Algo Change

That’s very useful information, Chad, and it’s very detailed as well. And, you’re right, this is breaking news. On April 21, Google is changing their algorithm. Mobile capability is now officially in the algo. It’s been talked about for many years. It’s coming. It’s six weeks away. You have plenty of time to respond, and the good news is, if you miss it, you can catch up pretty quickly. But we recommend… don’t do that. Get yourself a new WordPress site, out of the box, almost all of these new, modern themes -- as you said, Chad -- are going to be responsive and mobile-ready.

That’s the news for today. We really appreciate you joining our Brown Bag. We always ask that you subscribe, and we’ll see you right back here tomorrow for another interesting video.