The second coming of Google’s “Mobile-Friendly Algorithm”

3 Henry Kingston

Mobile websiteAlmost a year ago – April 21st to be precise – Google launched a new algorithm focussing on the mobile-friendliness of websites. Not ones to panic, the digital community swiftly dubbed the update as “Mobilegeddon”, with numerous articles claiming that after April 21st any non mobile-friendly websites would see themselves moved down or even removed from Google’s SERPs.

The reality is that after April 21st most people didn’t see much change (never trust the search community to predict the end of days). Fast forward to today and Google are announcing the second coming of the “mobile-friendly algorithm” update, and even though there is not as much panic as before there are still those that are concerned it will have an adverse affect on their rankings.

The truth is that in this day and age websites should be mobile friendly as a pre-requisite. Last year we saw mobile search overtaking desktop search in countries around the world, and with mobiles becoming more prevalent in developing countries this is only going to increase in the coming months and years.

Having a website that is mobile (and tablet) friendly is not something new, nor are webmasters and businesses in the dark about the importance of being mobile friendly. The problem is that some businesses are confused as to what “mobile-friendly” really means, especially as best practice – especially in terms of Google – keeps changing.

Google claims that in order to determine the mobile-friendliness of your site you can use their free Google mobile-friendly tool or check their mobile guidelines. There are certain aspects that all websites should have, such as easily readable text and buttons that can be pressed without having to zoom in, however other factors such as site speed are becoming increasingly important.

Years ago most companies tackled the issue of mobile-friendliness by creating separate websites which usually had “m.” (for mobile) and “t.” (for tablet) in front of their URLs. However, this method was cumbersome as it meant having to build, update and support three separate websites with differing features and technology.

This is where responsive design came in: by developing responsive websites businesses are able to run just one platform that is both visually appealing and easy to use no matter what devices visitors use. However, there is a small limitation to responsive sites: as so much code is required to make them appealing regardless of device, page load speeds can be slow, especially if users have poor Wi-Fi/3G connections.

Google’s solution to this issue is “Accelerated Mobile Pages” (AMP) – pages which use certain forms of HTML and JavaScript to ensure faster load speeds. The only catch? You are going back to having a separate mobile website with its own dedicated code.

So what should we expect from the second Google mobile-friendliness algorithm update in May? Firstly, we have been told it will be a gradual update, meaning at first you may not see much of change. Secondly, the algorithm is a page-by-page signal, meaning it will take a while for it to complete.

Webmasters therefore have a good couple of weeks to improve their websites or at the very least determine a plan for making them more mobile friendly. Out of all of the Google algorithm updates this one is possibly the least scary, however as we all know, once Google has warned you about something a few times they are likely to crack down in the future.

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