This Google Ranking Signal Is About to Get A Boost

Chris CrumSearch

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Google made mobile-friendliness a ranking signal about a year ago, and the company just announced that it's about to have even more significance. Long story short, if you haven't gone mobile-friendly yet, you should do that ASAP.

Have you ensured that your site is mobile-friendly by Google's standards? Have you checked it lately? Discuss.

Google had this to say in a brief post on its Webmaster Central blog:

Getting good, relevant answers when you search shouldn’t depend on what device you’re using. You should get the best answer possible, whether you’re on a phone, desktop or tablet. Last year, we started using mobile-friendliness as a ranking signal on mobile searches. Today we’re announcing that beginning in May, we’ll start rolling out an update to mobile search results that increases the effect of the ranking signal to help our users find even more pages that are relevant and mobile-friendly.

If you've already made your site mobile-friendly, you will not be impacted by this update. If you need support with your mobile-friendly site, we recommend checking out the Mobile-Friendly Test and the Webmaster Mobile Guide, both of which provide guidance on how to improve your mobile site. And remember, the intent of the search query is still a very strong signal — so even if a page with high quality content is not mobile-friendly, it could still rank well if it has great, relevant content.

Keep in mind, that even if you made your site mobile-friendly to prepare for this initial update last spring, there has been at least once significant change since then.

In the fall, Google announced a new caveat to mobile-friendliness. You can't use app install interstitials that hide the content of your mobile site. In fact, just the other day, Google indicated that it's not a fan of sneaky workarounds for this either.

"Instead of full page interstitials, we recommend that webmasters use more user-friendly formats such as app install banners," Google said at the time. "We hope that this change will make it easier for searchers to see the content of the pages they are looking for."

Some app owners have found a way around this, but what they're doing may not help them for much longer.

Barry Schwartz at Search Engine Roundtable points to a Q&A in a Google webmaster hangout (start at 49 minutes in).

Someone points out Yelp specifically as an example (which is interesting given the company's vocal opposition to Google's policy on this) of a mobile site that uses a "splash screen that's not really a splash screen," because it just makes the user scroll down.

According to Google's John Mueller, Google may take manual actions on things like this and may even penalize sites for such practices.

Also since the initial launch of the mobile-friendly signal, Google launched Accelerated Mobile Pages (AMP), its open source project, which a number of other tech and web companies have begun participating in.

Google has indicated that AMP isn't (at least for now) a direct ranking signal, but that it is one way to ensure mobile-friendliness. If nothing else, it should help in the page speed department. Google has also been giving AMP pages exclusive access to the mobile news carousel.

The mobile-friendly update was billed "Mobilegeddon" by many outlets, but it didn't quite become that. It remains to be seen if May will see a more significant impact.

You can find Google's mobile-friendly test tool here.

Do you think it's a good idea for Google to turn up the mobile-friendly signal? Share your thoughts.

Image via Google

Chris Crum
Chris Crum has been a part of the WebProNews team and the iEntry Network of B2B Publications since 2003. Follow Chris on Twitter, on StumbleUpon, on Pinterest and/or on Google: +Chris Crum.