On February 18th Google made an announcement that they would be changing their mobile organic SERP algorithm to more heavily weigh “mobile friendliness” as a ranking signal. They said that they would be making the change officially on April 21. They made the announcement through their Google Webmaster Central Blog writing “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 I our search results.” This will be a big change for Google for many years. It is the first time that they have made an algorithm change.
Mobile vs Desktop
Initially mobile rankings were tied to desktop rankings such that when you ranked well on the desktop SERP you automatically ranked well on the mobile-friendliness ranking. However Google had always mentioned that mobile friendliness of a site would affect its organic ranking. And on April 21st it will move to fulfil that promise.
The change will mean that mobile friendly sites will receive a big boost in their rankings. However it is not yet clear whether it will affect their desktop rakings. There is however speculation that mobile friendliness does already affect desktop rankings. Mobile friendliness is definitely already a key factor in site rankings and if not officially declared to affect desktop rankings on April 21st, it will be in the near future.
Effect to Desktop?
Google however in their announcement did not mention if the mobile ranking shift will apply on a site wide or page-by-page basis. Distinction between the two is very important as some websites use dynamic serving or separate mobile sites which contain mobile sites of some content. Currently the “mobile friendly” label in SERPs is awarded to individual pages on a domain. One cannot be sure whether the new mobile search algorithm will judge website pages on their individual merits as well. Also we cannot be sure if the percentage of mobile friendly pages on a website if too low will see a demotion after the announcement is made official.
Responsive Design vs deidacted Mobile site
With all the changes coming one has to take measures to get good rankings. Responsive design is one good way of doing this. Responsive design has numerous advantages; responsive designed websites have a one-to-one relationship between desktop and mobile pages as they are one in the same. Google prefers serving content to mobile users and through this we assume that responsive sites will be favoured by Google in search results going forward. This will be the first real step Google will take as they effect the change. Some however may prefer not to go responsive and for such it is important that you consider the mobile solutions you have in place and address its flaws as soon as you can.
Mobile Testing Tools
Google provides things like Mobility Usability Report to Google Webmaster Tools to help webmasters identify mobile site pitfalls and flaws. It helps detect errors that are specific to your domain. Google also recently released the Mobile Friendly Testing Tool which analyses a URL and reports if the specific page has a mobile-friendly design. As a webmaster you have to use the necessary tools and resources available to make sure that your website is as mobile friendly as required.