This past February Google announced a significant algorithm update that will transform search results by evaluating mobile-friendliness.

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 in our search results. Consequently, users will find it easier to get relevant, high quality search results that are optimized for their devices.

The mobile-friendliness update is consistent with Google’s continuing emphasis on user experience. You may have noticed the change in search results on your mobile device.

The following is a screen grab from a recent iPhone search:

Mobile SERP Example

Google has also communicated the upcoming update through Google Webmaster Tools messages. My inbox has made the severity of this update pretty clear:

Webmaster Tools Emails

This is the first time Google has clearly, publicly, and frequently announced an algorithm update, which is a good indicator that if your site is not up to mobile par by April 21st, then your organic site traffic will suffer. To be clear – this update will only impact mobile search results, not desktop search results. Mobile searches, however, will only continue to increase. In the past year JB Media’s mobile site traffic has increased over 150% and continues to climb.

If you’ve been considering updating your site to ensure it is mobile-friendly, then the time is NOW. Mobile-friendliness isn’t just about staying current; it’s about staying competitive.


How to Assess Your Site

Google has offered many tools to assess your site. It’s fantastic. Honestly I wish all updates came with this kind of direct support from Google. It’s like Google has been working to improve their user experience for web masters. Way to practice what you preach, Google.

Google’s Mobile-Friendly Test

Simply enter your URL into the Google Mobile-Friendly Test to see where your site stands. Also be sure to just look up your website on your own mobile devices.


Example of Mobile Friendly Site Pass:

Mobile Friendly Site Pass

Example of Mobile Friendly Site Fail:

Mobile Friendly Site Fail


Google Webmaster Tools

Google Webmaster Tools (GWT) is how Google communicates website issues to you. GWT has a convenient section on Mobile Usability complete with instructions for what to change and how.


Webmaster Tools Mobile Usability Example:

Webmaster Tools Mobile Issues

Instructions for Making Your Site Mobile-Friendly

Google unofficially recommends responsive design as the best solution for ensuring your site is mobile friendly, likely because is it’s the easiest and most cost effective solution. All mobile site options, when done correctly, are acceptable. Once you’ve made the necessary updates to your site simply resubmit your site on the Mobile-Friendly Test.

Resource: Google’s Mobile Guide by Website Software

Examples of Guides:

Google Mobile WordPress Recommendations

Google Mobile Magento Ecommerce Recommendations


What Happens if You Miss the April 21st Deadline?

It will take about a week to for Google to roll out the new shift. If your site is not mobile-friendly, you can expect your site will drop in all mobile searches.

Keep in mind that with this update your rankings for desktop search will not be impacted by this change – nor will direct search (if your users are searching you by name on their mobile devices, you’ll still show up at the top of the search results). It’s better to get your site updated for mobile correctly than to make hasty decisions to meet the deadline. Moving forward, however, prioritize mobile site work, and consider the overarching message: user experience.