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Google's Mobile Algorithm Change: 5 Things To Know

If your website isn't optimized for mobile devices, there's a good chance your Google search rankings will plummet. Here are five key facts that you and your business need to know.
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"Mobilegeddon," what many have taken to calling Google's new search algorithm, lands today, April 21. The update will retool search rankings and give greater weight to sites that are friendly to mobile devices.

This will have a huge impact on businesses large and small, far and wide, and should serve as a wake-up call to the growing importance of creating and deploying a "mobile first" website.

Google has long led the charge toward optimizing everything for consumption on mobile devices. Worldwide, more people browse the Web from a smartphone than from a desktop browser. Websites that don't work well on smartphones don't win over consumers and definitely don't make Google happy. The number of mobile Web users surpassed the number of desktop Web users last year, and about 89% of global smartphone owners make use of Google search on their handset.

[Read about Google and big data.]

Here are five key things to know about the changes.

1. Mobile Only

The changes in Google's search algorithm, which go into effect today, do not impact desktop or tablet search results. The new algorithm only applies to searches performed from smartphones and other mobile handsets. Desktop search rankings won't be impacted by the change. Sites that aren't mobile friendly will not be delisted from search.

2. You Can Test Your Site

Google has a tool called the Mobile Friendly Test to help companies determine just how friendly their mobile sites truly are. Sites that Google determines are mobile friendly earn a label that lets mobile searchers know the site works well on smartphones. Pages are either friendly or not friendly; there is no in-between. Don't forget to work with your Web host. Squarespace, for example, has a dedicated how-to guide to help its sites optimize for mobile. Moreover, Google wants you to avoid some common mistakes.

3. Not Just the Home Page

The algorithm checks every page on the site for mobile friendliness, not just the home page. The more mobile friendly pages on the website, the better the chances are of scoring higher search rankings.

4. Events Occur in Real-Time

The search algorithm works in real-time. It's not delayed, as Panda and Penguin were. Sites that make changes to improve mobile friendliness should see Google pick up on the changes within hours, not days. That said, it will take time for Google's Web crawlers to index everything. The process might even take a few weeks to roll out entirely. In other words, your search rankings aren't likely to start tanking immediately.

5. Accuracy and Speed Play Smaller Roles

Passing the mobile-friendly test is still just one parameter websites need to master in order to place well in mobile search. According to Google, accurate or high-quality content might rank well even if it is not mobile friendly. Google tends to prefer fast websites to slow ones, but slow mobile-friendly sites likely won't be penalized in search rankings as long as they have fast desktop performance.

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