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How to prepare for Google's next major search update

James A. Martin | April 6, 2015
At the close of last month's Search Marketing Expo (SMX) West, conference speakers were asked to share their key takeaways.

At the close of last month's Search Marketing Expo (SMX) West, conference speakers were asked to share their key takeaways.

"Mobile, mobile, mobile," said Kelly Wrather, senior manager of content marketing for Kenshoo and an SMX presenter. "I want to grab every website designer and tell them mobile is the thing! It's the only thing!"

At previous SMX shows the importance of mobile-optimized websites was a frequent topic of discussion, but this year, as Wrather's declaration illustrates, there was a sense of urgency because "Mobilegeddon," as some are calling it, is nearly here.

On April 21, Google will expand its "mobile-friendly" search result rankings, and the company says the changes will have an even bigger impact on search than its past Panda and Penguin algorithm updates. The Penguin update affected about four percent of global searches, and Panda impacted about 12 percent of English-language searches, according to Search Engine Land, so the new mobile-friendly update has the attention of everyone in the SEO community right now.

Here's what you need to know to prepare for Mobilegeddon.

Mobilegeddon, and how we got here

A website mobile-friendliness has been a search ranking factor for two years. The April 21 algorithm change means mobile-friendliness will become an even more important ranking factor, according to Jayson DeMers, founder and CEO, AudienceBloom. "Websites that aren't mobile-friendly will see a more negative impact in search visibility than they may already be seeing, and mobile-optimized sites may be rewarded even greater in search rankings," DeMers says.

In June 2013, Google wrote on its Webmaster Central Blog that it planned to roll out "several ranking changes in the near future" to "address sites that are misconfigured for smartphone users."

At that time, Google outlined two typical mistakes that can cause websites to deliver poor mobile experiences: faulty redirects for site pages listed in search results that send smartphone users to a single mobile page, such as the home page, instead of a mobile-optimized version of the page users want; and smartphone-only errors, which occur when smartphone users click Web pages listed in search results and only see error messages.

More recently, on February 26, 2015, Google announced via its Webmaster Central Blog two "important changes to help users discover more mobile-friendly content" on their mobile devices.

The first change, coming on April 21, will be to deliver "more mobile-friendly websites in search results" on mobile devices. With this update, the search giant will expand its use of mobile-friendliness as a ranking signal, and it will affect mobile searches "in all languages worldwide."

Google's mobile-friendly algorithm will "have a significant impact in our search results," giving mobile users easier access to "relevant, high-quality search results" optimized for mobile devices, the company says.


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