5 Things You Need to Know About Google’s New Mobile-Friendly Algorithm

Google recently announced that they will be expanding their use of mobile-friendliness as a ranking signal for search results. According to Google, “This change … will have a significant impact in our search results.”

In other words, don’t take this change lightly.


The upcoming Mobile-Friendly algorithm will impact more sites than Panda or Penguin algorithms.

– Zineb Ait Bahajji, Google

But what do small businesses really need to know about these changes? Let’s cut through all of the mumbo-jumbo and jargon, shall we?

1. Google has stated that the changes will take affect no sooner than April 21.

This is important to note, because Google rarely makes announcements in advance with the exact date of algorithm changes. It’s also unusual for them to use phrases like “significant impact.”

Translation: This is a big deal, folks.

2. For Google, there are no shades of gray when it comes to mobile-friendliness.

During a recent Google+ hangout, someone asked whether degrees of mobile-friendliness will impact rankings. Google’s response was that, “you either have a Mobile-Friendly page or not.”

So, it doesn’t really matter to Google whether one site is more user-friendly on a mobile device than another – as long as your site meets their criteria of Mobile-Friendly (see item #4 below for details on that) then you will benefit from the ranking changes.

Translation: Done is better than perfect. So just get ‘er done. 

3. You can find out right now if your site is Mobile-Friendly.

Google is doing everything they can do make this transition easy on you. They’ve even provided a nifty little test that will tell you if your site is currently considered Mobile-Friendly by Googlebots.

To check your site, just click here to access their test and enter your URL. It will analyze your website and tell you that your site is Mobile-Friendly (because it’s responsive) …

Mobile-friendly responsive example

… or because it has a mobile site or mobile plugin …

Mobile friendly mobile plugin example

… or, it will tell you that is not Mobile-Friendly.

Translation: If you pass the test, you can relax (for now.) If not, you should put serious consideration into updating your website.

4. The Mobile-Friendly ranking factor runs in real time and is judged on a page-by-page basis.

This is great news if you don’t have the budget for a brand-new website right away, or if your webmaster simply can’t get all of your pages ready to go by April 21. Because Google will go on a page-by-page basis, rather than a site-wide analysis, you may be able to update your more important pages first and work your way through the rest when you can. As soon as Google picks up on the changes, those pages will benefit from the new algorithm.

Your website may be Mobile-Unfriendly if:

  • The content is wider than the screen.
    If you’ve ever used your smart phone to view a website, you probably know what we’re talking about. If the reader has to scroll left or right in order to read the content, your site isn’t Mobile-Friendly.
  • The text too small.
    Does the reader have zoom in in order to read text on the page? If so, your site isn’t Mobile-Friendly.
  • The links too close together.
    On a smartphone, links should be easy to tap with your finger or thumb. If they are too small or too crowded, your site may not be Mobile-Friendly.
  • The mobile viewport isn’t set.
    Ok, we’re getting a little jargon-y here. Sorry about that, but it’s important. The mobile viewport controls the width of the page as it displays on the device. If your website shows up like a desktop landscape when smartphone visitors land on your page, then the viewport is not set for mobile on that page. This is where responsive websites have a distinct advantage.

Translation: If your website is NOT Mobile-Friendly but you can’t afford to have it completely redone, all is not lost. You have options – we suggest asking a professional for help to understand what those options are.

5. And, on that note: a Mobile Site will help, but Responsive Design may be the way to go.

Google has long recommended responsive site design as the best mobile solution; so, while “mobile only” sites may be a viable quick fix, it’s very possible that responsive websites will be given preference over dedicated mobile sites.

Responsive Web design has streamlined support of mobile devices, allowing for one website that will automatically reformat itself to fit any device screen width (mobile or tablet, for instance) and orientation (landscape or portrait).

While responsive design may require development of an entirely new website, the end result will be worth the time and expense; especially if you rely on search engines for new business or have customers who frequent your website using a mobile device.

Translation: Responsive Design is an investment in your business and should be your first choice option if at all possible.

6. Caffeinated Design Studio is here to help.

Get a free automated SEO report. Click here to request a free report that will provide you with a deep SEO analysis covering SEO, Mobile, Social, Local and Usability.

Need advice?
Just give us a buzz if you want to chat about the best solution for your website.

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OK, so we actually gave you six things to know. You’re welcome!

Kristin Heffley

Kristin Heffley

Chief Executive Caffeinator at Caffeinated Design Studio
Kristin Heffley is founder and Chief Executive Caffeinator at Caffeinated Design Studio, a visual marketing agency based near Seattle, Washington. She loves coffee, her family, and helping clients create knock-their-socks-off brands, among other things. Her favorite caffeinated drink is a sugar-free vanilla Americano.
Kristin Heffley
Kristin Heffley
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