Google’s mobile algorithm update: shock or crock?

Google’s mobile algorithm update is due to be launched on the 21st April 2015 and, in my opinion, it’s one of the most significant updates to be rolled out by the mammoth search engine provider.

Within the SEO community, from its very announcement, the update has caused hysteria, with rumours abounding of a one-day cull of non-mobile optimised websites and automated, site-wide evaluations raising the visibility of the unfortunate to the ground in one fell swoop—and so on and so forth.

For every panic-imbued claim made, however, there have been counter rumours, so here’s our understanding of what will—and won’t—happen come April 21st:

The algorithm will start to roll out on this date, and will take effect over the following weeks.

John Mueller from Google has stated that sites need only be mobile-optimised at this point, rather than fully responsive.

For any confusion regarding the above, a mobile site is usually a separate version of a website, with paired down functions, less pages and a design made specifically for a smartphone screen. By contrast, responsive design is (arguably) superior, since it adjusts to any screen size (if executed properly) and means that you have only the one version of your site. This does away with the administrative nightmare of updating content across multiple versions of your site and is more likely to transfer maximum SEO benefit to your overall domain. It also makes for a superior user experience for those revisiting your site from different devices.

Additionally, Mueller has hinted that the algorithm will look at things on a page-by-page basis, so if your site is partially optimised, you will still stand to benefit from some uplift in search engine visibility.

Google claims that the algorithm is not designed to penalise non-mobile optimised sites, but is there to privilege the visibility of those sites that have had investment in mobile optimisation. From our perspective, however, an uplift in visibility for optimised sites will, in turn, push non-optimised sites down in the search engine results pages (SERPs).

Feeling panicked?

In short, don’t. Your short-term aim should be to optimise core pages of your site for mobile. If your budget will stretch, you should start to look at responsive design.

It’s my opinion that Google will eventually revise this algorithm to privilege fully responsive sites. Furthermore, your website should aim to offer the very best in user experience for your audience, and that entails them being able to see all of your pages and all of your content correctly resized to suit whichever device they’re browsing your site from.

Can I test to see if my site is optimised?

Yes! Back in February, Google kindly supplied us with a link to its mobile-friendly test. Running your site URL through here will identify any pitfalls, along with basic advice on how to remedy.

Good luck with your updates. If you’ve listened to the mobile message and aren’t sweating April 21st, then pat yourself on the back. If you’ve not, then I can’t emphasise how imperative it is that you at least start to make fundamental changes now and into the coming fortnight.

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