With Google rolling out a steady stream of ranking algorithm updates and mobile search features, 2016 is shaping up to be another huge year for mobile marketing.
In late April 2015, Google released an important update to its search ranking algorithm that was designed to improve rankings for mobile friendly pages in Google’s mobile search results. Often refereed to under a variety of colloquial names such as mobilegeddon or mobilepocalypse, the algorithm classified websites in real time, as either mobile-friendly or not mobile-friendly. This is done a page-by-page basis so site owners should take care to make sure all appropriate pages have been properly optimised.
Initial analysis of the mobile update, showed that the most important positive mobile ranking factors are related to improving user experience. These included:
A responsive site design and having a dedicated mobile version of a site.
Large font sizes.
Having fewer ads, internal links and images than desktop optimised pages.
Site speed (this appears to be the most important factor , with top 10 results tending to load more quickly).
Compared to desktop, analysis also showed that backlinks were less of a ranking factor, and that mobile results are less often linked to news pages.
While mobilegeddon didn’t quite live up to its name, the update did see a slight increase in mobile-friendly page one results, and a decline in non mobile-friendly pages on the first three pages of search results. The update did however cause a rush of site owners to create responsive and mobile-optimised websites.
At the time of writing, AMP results only show at the top of the news section on mobile searches, but it’s likely that Google will expand AMP’s presence in the near future. AMP also isn’t currently a search ranking factor, although Google has hinted that it may become one in the future, which may coincide with AMP’s expansion beyond the mobile top stories/news box.
While AMP pages are by no means the only way to create faster mobile pages, it does provide site owners with a relatively intuitive framework for creating mobile-friendly sites.
Google is continuing to implement new app indexing capabilities over 2016. App indexing refers to Google’s displaying of apps in their search results, so that as well as pages, results will include any relevant content residing within an app. This means app owners should definitely ensure that their apps are properly indexed, and that all site owners should continue efforts towards growing their presence in the rapidly expanding mobile sphere. Recently Google has implemented expansions to its app indexing to display results from apps that are not currently installed on a mobile device, and are working on improving app indexing for IOS apps.
Google’s Latest Mobile Update
In mid-March, Google announced that starting in May, they intend to increase the effects of their aforementioned mobile ranking algorithm. While this update is unlikely to cause the level of concern and apocalyptic hyperbole as the initial algorithm release, it does signify that that mobile friendliness is going to become an ever more important element in mobile SEO.
Google have stated that if a site is already mobile friendly it won’t be impacted by this update and the update is expected to be rolled out slowly, precluding any dramatic traffic drop-offs in non-mobile friendly sites. To check that your site is mobile friendly, read Google’s mobile guidelines and check out their mobile-friendly tool.