Approximately 518 words, estimated read time: 2 minutes
On February 26, 2015, Google announced they will be expanding their use of mobile-friendliness as a ranking signal. The Internet quickly filled with headlines like these:
- “Google to start penalizing non-mobile blogs on April 21″
- “Google to Businesses: You Have Until April 21st to Get Mobile Friendly“
- “Is Your Website Optimized For Mobile? You Have Until April 21 To Get It Done”
- “Mobile-Friendly Sites to Rank Better on Google Starting April 21″
Many people who build websites (not necessarily “web professionals”) quickly jumped on the bandwagon to tell businesses that the sky is falling and it’s time to redesign their websites to be mobile-friendly. Some are preaching responsive web design, while others will sell you a second, mobile version of your website. Regardless, they’re happy to sell you a quick fix to your mobile problem. But just how serious is all this?
Before we go any further, please go read the official announcement from Google for yourself. It’s a short, quick read (approximately 339 words, estimated read time: 1½ minutes). I’ll wait for you…
Okay, now let’s get down to the facts.
Google has always had the mission to provide quality, relevant search results. If you’re searching for a local plumber, Google wants to give you a list of local plumbers. Starting April 21, if you’re searching for a local plumber on your mobile phone, Google wants to make your life a bit easier by showing you search results that are optimized for your phone. Google has hundreds of “signals” used to weed out garbage websites from the quality, legitimate ones. Mobile-friendliness has been one of those signals for a long time, but now Google is expanding the use of that signal for searches that take place on mobile devices.
“Starting April 21, we will be expanding our use of mobile-friendliness as a ranking signal. This change will affect mobile searches in all languages worldwide and will have a significant impact in our search results. Consequently, users will find it easier to get relevant, high quality search results that are optimized for their devices.”
Nowhere does Google say they’ll be penalizing websites that are not mobile-friendly. And nowhere does Google say your mobile-friendly website will rank higher–they don’t make those promises. Google makes it very clear what they’re doing: “…users will find it easier to get relevant, high quality search results that are optimized for their devices.” They even provide links to tools that help website owners get their websites mobile-friendly.
So this announcement isn’t really a big deal?
Well, it’s extremely rare for Google to announce changes to their algorithm in advance, and their announcement is telling us it will have “a significant impact” for search results on mobile devices. With many websites seeing over 30% of their visitors arriving on mobile devices, it just makes sense to have a site that works well for mobile devices. But remember, a mobile-friendly website does not guarantee good ranking on Google or any other search engine. Understand what’s really happening and make smart, strategic decisions about how to improve your website. And always partner with a reputable web professional who has the experience and understanding of what’s really happening.