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3 Ways to Optimize for Google’s Mobile-Friendly Algorithm

On April 21, 2015, Google announced a major addition to their algorithm which will significantly impact how websites rank in mobile search results. Is your site ready?

Google officially announced an algorithm change giving mobile-friendly sites a boost in mobile search results rather than simply penalizing sites which offer a poor mobile experience as it has been doing since June 2013. While some are calling this the mobile “SEO-pocalypse,” others see this as a beneficial call to action, an opportunity at last to justify expenditures on responsive design.

Responsive design ensures web content adapts and resizes for optimal viewing on any mobile device and has replaced the strategy of creating a separate mobile version of your website specifically for mobile search results. By using responsive design, websites are able to deliver the best customer experience possible across a plethora of devices.

Here are some simple tips and strategies to help take advantage of the new boost Google will be giving to mobile-friendly websites.

1. Understand What Multichannel Mobile-Friendly Means

Mobile search drives 30% of all traffic, and for many websites, that amount can be 50% or more. While that’s reason alone to make sure the website is responsive, Google’s new ranking algorithm, which will soon give precedent to content on responsive websites, makes having a mobile-friendly website more important than ever.

The first step is understanding what Google means by “mobile-friendly.” In addition to offering a mobile-friendly testing tool, Google outlines some criteria websites must meet to be considered mobile-friendly:

  • Avoid using software not common to mobile devices (like Flash)

  • Use text that is readable without having to zoom

  • Size content to fit mobile screens to avoid scrolling

  • Place links far apart making it easy to tap the right one

Google also recommends avoiding slow page load times, blocked images and faulty redirects, but these are basic ranking recommendations for both desktop and mobile websites alike.

2. Choose Responsive Design

In many ways, Google’s mobile-friendly criteria mirrors good responsive web design. Google even seems to favor responsive design over mobile websites.

One reason is that a page on a mobile site will often redirect to the homepage of the desktop version and deliver inaccurate results. Another is that updates to websites are not always made to mobile sites causing loss of potential search traffic.

If still on the fence about spending the time and resources to make a website responsive, consider these statistics:

  • 67% of users said they’re more likely to purchase a product or service from a business with a mobile-friendly website. (Source: MarginMedia)

  • 62% of businesses who optimized their website for mobile saw an increase in sales.

  • Only 22% of marketers say they’re ahead of the curve when it comes to responsive design. 23% say they’re behind the times. (Source: eMarketer)

3. Engineer Content

Having a mobile-friendly design is only part of getting a website to rank well in search results. Content must be flexible and adaptable to meet users' needs. The best way to do this is with content engineering.

At its most basic, Google’s new algorithm simply removes an impediment: websites which are not easy to browse on mobile devices. This change only highlights the importance of Google’s primary focus of delivering the most relevant content to its searchers.

Content engineering involves organizing content with hierarchies, taxonomies and metadata, providing structure to help visitors access content in many ways (by topic, media or content type, etc.). This keeps them more engaged on the site and encourages sharing and distribution, all of which will help the site rank better in search results.

Keeping content structured also allows it to be distributed across many platforms, responding appropriately to the constraints of various device types and sizes while still maintaining structure and control. This means that, instead of creating specific content for mobile the way one might have once created a separate site for mobile, content is created to be just as adaptable.

Apocalypse or Opportunity?

While many are eager to brand Google’s new ranking algorithm “Mobilegeddon” or the next “SEO-pocalypse,” it’s really an opportunity to step ahead of the competition and to adapt both design and content strategy to take full advantage of the growing mobile search landscape.

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