Everything you need to know about Google’s ‘Mobile Friendly’ update

'Mobile Friendly'

With Google’s ‘mobile friendly’ algorithm update looming, webmasters and marketers have been screaming out for more information on what lies ahead. We got our wish too, when Gary Illyes took to the hot seat at SMX Westto answer questions from SEOs – and he had some unusually insightful answers ahead of the update.
So here are the key takeaways from the session and a number of pointers to help you get ‘mobile friendly’ before the algorithm kicks in.

APRIL 21ST IS A VERY IMPORTANT DAY

April 21st has been touted as the key date for the algorithm to kick in, although there have been murmurs from some webmasters about ranking boost already – something we can’t take as definitive. Gary Illyes was tight-lipped on the subject too, saying no more than “April 21st is a very important day.”

NO TALK OF A DOUBLE UPDATE ON THE 21ST

Google loves to keep webmasters on their toes and one of its party tricks is to roll out multiple updates at the same time – so SEOs are understandably suspicious when Illyes says the 21st is very important day. Unsurprisingly, the question was asked whether we should anticipate a double update – “I’m not aware of anything else that is changing on that day” was his response.

RESPONSIVE DESIGN HAS NO RANKING BENEFIT OVER OTHER SOLUTIONS

Google recommends responsive design as the best way to tackle mobile optimisation so it’s only natural to wonder if its algorithm will favour this approach too. However, Gary Illyes was clear to point out responsive won’t get a ranking benefit over other mobile solutions.

GOOGLE RANKS MOBILE FRIENDLY ON A PAGE BY PAGE BASIS

A key point ahead of the algorithm update is that Google ranks mobile friendly on a page by page basis. This means the mobile friendly pages on your site will see a ranking boost, while non-optimised pages won’t – it’s as simple as that. This allows you to focus on the most important pages of your site and make them mobile friendly first, before April 21st.

MOBILE FRIENDLY PAGES WILL GET A BOOST, AS SOON AS GOOGLE DISCOVERS THEM

One of the worst things about updates like Penguin is you have to wait until a refresh to see improved results – even after you make the changes. This won’t be the case with the mobile friendly update though and optimised pages will get a ranking boost, as soon as Google discovers them.

THE UPDATE SHOULDN’T IMPACT DESKTOP RESULTS IN ANY WAY

When asked if there is any chance the update could affect results on desktop, Illyes responded with “to the best of my knowledge, no.” It’s a typically ambiguous answer from the Google camp, but all signs suggest this will be true.

GOOGLE IS WORKING ON SEPARATE INDEXES FOR MOBILE AND DESKTOP

This is because Google is already working on separate indexes for mobile and desktop searches. Illyes can’t give us any indication of what stage Google is at with developing the individual indexes, but he confirms there is a dedicated team working on it as we speak.

GOOGLEBOT NEEDS TO CRAWL YOUR CSS & JAVASCRIPT FILES

For your site to pass the mobile friendly test GoogleBot needs access to your CSS and JavaScript files. Actually, Google needs access to these for a number of reasons and you may have been hit by previous updates if these files are blocked. The easiest way to check if your CSS and JavaScript files are accessible is via Webmaster Tools – and if you need more details, check out this guide from the team at Creative Cali.

HOWEVER, YOU DON’T NEED TO WORRY ABOUT OFFSITE RESOURCES THAT BLOCK JAVASCRIPT

Webmasters don’t have control of every JavaScript file that affects their website – for example Google Analytics code. Google takes this into account though, and offsite resources that block JavaScript won’t affect your mobile friendly grading.

Are You Ready For The Mobile Friendly Movement?

If you’re worried about the mobile friendly update coming on April 21st, don’t hesitate to get in touch with us to find out more about protecting your search ranking with mobile optimisation.