Google Changes Ranking Algorithm Based on Mobile Website Readiness

Using Mobile-Readiness to Get Found on Google

Every so often, Google tweaks and refines how they return web pages in response to a search query. Google continuously assesses their search algorithms to make sure the results they provide are the most useful they can be based on the information input into the search query.

Understanding How Google Performs a Search

Without getting into the technical weeds about Google’s search algorithms and how they work, it helps to understand, in nontechnical terms, how Google performs a search and some of the information Google relies on when providing search results. One key factor that comes into play is the level of relevance of the content on a web page to the search being performed.

Google tries to determine how specific or broad a search is. For example, did the user type in cat or exotic Persian shorthair cat? Google analyzes the words a user types into the search bar, and even makes allowances for typos (cat bred vs. cat breed). And, depending on the words or terms a user included in their search (keywords), Google’s lightning-fast search for results includes looking at web pages and matching the keywords to web page content where they appear in titles, headings, and text.

A user’s personal Google search settings and patterns also inform Google and can come into play in helping Google return relevant search results. For example, a user’s previous or recent searches as well as their location can factor in the results Google returns to a search query.

Companies and website owners naturally want to be found when a customer or potential customer searches for a product they sell or service they offer. But, before Google will rank a website high in search engine results, they want to be certain that visitors to the website to have a good user experience. Businesses can help themselves in that regard by ensuring the content on their website is always fresh and the information they provide is of high quality and valuable to the people who visit their website. The business should come across as trustworthy, and the content on the site representative of a company that is an authority in its industry or on a particular topic.

Mobile vs. Desktop Search

Without a doubt, we have gone mobile. People everywhere rely on their mobile devices – smartphones and tablets – to shop, for entertainment, for conducting business, for learning and information, for communicating, and much more. As far back as 2010, industry experts predicted our use of mobile devices would surpass our use of desktop PCs. Those experts were right. According to a March 2017 report by comScore, 69% of the time we spend consuming digital media is done on a mobile device as compared to a desktop computer – and that includes performing searches on Google.

As a result, Google will be changing their optimization rules over time so that websites will only be ranked based on the mobile version of the website. Up until quite recently, it did not matter if a website was not optimized for viewing and use on mobile devices. In fact, countless sites continue to work today on only desktop computers and not on mobile devices. But, with every update to their ranking algorithms that Google performs, Google is moving away from ranking websites based on their desktop version to what they call mobile-first indexing, which ranks the mobile version of the site in terms of its content, links, certain data, and how viewable the site is on a mobile device.

Understanding Mobile-first Indexing

In anticipation of user behavior trends, Google has been slowly moving toward mobile-first indexing – a search ranking system that gives websites a mobile-friendly ranking boost. With mobile-first indexing, Google looks first at the mobile version of a website for indexing and for how they determine a site’s ranking. But, if a company has only a desktop version of their website, Google will still include that site in its index, but the sites rankings could be negatively affected.

In time, Google will no longer consider the desktop version of a website to be the primary version, but will instead give that preference to the mobile version of the website. To minimize the impact to your desktop site, you will want to ensure that your desktop and mobile sites are, in essence, created equal – that the desktop site uses responsive design and the content is optimized for mobile use.

Do I Need to Change My Mobile Site to Improve Indexing and Ranking?

There are ways to enhance your mobile website and prepare for when Google eventually makes the change to mobile-first indexing. First and foremost, the content on your mobile site should be just as high quality and valuable as the content on the desktop version of your website, whether you are using text, images, or video. Google should be able to both crawl and index all your mobile content. The key takeaway is to understand that Google will crawl mobile content, so content on your mobile website should be as relevant and valuable as possible, which ultimately serves to improve your rankings.

Other checks and updates you should make include, for example, the mobile site’s metadata and social metadata, structured data, XML, sitemaps, and more – to ensure you are using, tagging, optimizing, etc. versions of each that work within the mobile environment.

Companies can no longer ignore (or afford to ignore) the requirement to have a mobile-responsive website. In the past, a company created two versions of their website: one for desktop and another for mobile. Over the upcoming months, Google will rely more and more on a company’s mobile site or mobile responsiveness of a desktop website when it applies mobile-first indexing. Keywords, search terms, and quality content will continue to matter, perhaps even more than a URL that today is used to organize site content.

To better understand the ins and outs of webpage ranking and mobile responsiveness, or determine what your current website needs in order to address Google’s move toward mobile-first indexing, consult with a professional web developer.

We are a Philadelphia-based web design and development company located in Plymouth Meeting just outside King of Prussia. The experts at Perfexion, Inc. specialize in helping clients market their business online – and on mobile – effectively and profitably.

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