Google Looks To Ease Frustrations As Mobile-Friendly Signal Rolls Out

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Google posted a pair of blog posts about its new mobile-friendly update which has the webmaster world and businesses around the web on their toes. As you probably know, "Mobilegeddon," or the new ranking signal began to roll out today. Google has said that it might take weeks for it to be completely rolled out.

In the meantime, Google is trying to make it as clear as possible what exactly is happening. The first of the aforementioned blog posts is a fairly brief reminder of the update, and the second is a more lengthy FAQ.

As the company notes in the former, the update is designed to let searchers more easily find "high quality and relevant results," which have text that is easy to read without tapping or zooming, have tap targets that are spaced appropriately, and avoid unplayable content and horizontal scrolling. Google wants to reward sites on mobile devices that are friendly to users of those devices. Makes sense.

The update only affects rankings on mobile devices, and affects search results on a global basis. It applies to individual pages rather than entire websites, which is important to remember.

Google also wants you to remember that while it does consider this an important change, it sill uses a variety (over 200 in fact) of signals to rank search results. Intent of a search query is still a "very strong" signal it says, so even if a page isn't mobile-friendly, but has high quality content, it could still rank highly.

Once again, Google says to check pages with its Mobile-Friendly Test or check the status of your entire site through the Mobile Usability report in Webmaster Tools.

"If your site’s pages aren’t mobile-friendly, there may be a significant decrease in mobile traffic from Google Search. But have no fear, once your site becomes mobile-friendly, we will automatically re-process (i.e., crawl and index) your pages," it says. "You can also expedite the process by using Fetch as Google with Submit to Index, and then your pages can be treated as mobile-friendly in ranking."

Here are the important takeaways from the second blog post:

- The update does not affect searches on tablets or desktops, and it's a page-level change. Only mobile-friendly pages will be able to get a boost as a direct result of the change.

- Google determines whether or not a page is mobile-friendly every time it's crawled, so webmasters won't have to wait for another update after they fix a page for it to get the advantage of the signal. This also means that if you weren't quite ready for the update today, it shouldn't be that big a deal as long as you can still fix what need's fixing.

- Google is saying now that the roll-out should take "a week or so". You can't determine whether or not you've been impacted on April 22.

- If your pages are designed to work well on mobile devices, but aren't passing Google's mobile-friendly test, it's probably because you're blocking Googlebot for smartphones from crawling resources like JavaScript and CSS. This is the most common reason that happens.

- You can still link to sites that Google doesn't consider mobile-friendly without fear of repercussions.

"It’s not the best experience for mobile visitors to go from a mobile-friendly page to a desktop-only page, but hopefully as more sites become mobile-friendly, this will become less of a problem," says Google's Maile Ohye.

- Mobile-friendliness is assessed the same regardless of whether a site is using responsive design, separate mobile URLs, or dynamic serving.

- It's naive to think you don't need to worry about the signal because you think your audience is desktop-only. More and more people are using mobile devices more as time goes on. Even if they're mostly desktop-only now, that doesn't mean it will stay that way.

- Pages with the old style of object YouTube embeds may register as not mobile-friendly. Make sure pages are using the newer iframe embeds.

- For tap target size, Google suggests a minimum of 7mm width/height for primary targets and a minimum margin of 5mm between secondary ones.

For more on how you can make your site mobile-friendly for how businesses have been preparing, read this.

Images via Thinkstock, 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.

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