So the 21st of April is going to be marked as another milestone in the Google calendar of historic updates, with the release of their “mobile-friendly” update. Specified clearly on the Google blog as being “significant”, this update will affect the way websites rank on mobile devices, based on whether they are responsive/mobile-friendly or not.

What is being introduced on April 21?

Google will be introducing a (new) mobile specific crawler, building an index specifically to return results within mobile SERPs. Google appreciates that a typical mobile user will want a difference experience based on their location and intent (a big driver of Google’s mobile strategy).

This update applies only to the “ten blue links” that appear within search results, and does not affect other result types such as local listings etc. This doesn’t rule out mobile friendliness algorithms being introduced into other search result types (each result type is handled by separate Google product teams), however at this time the mobile-friendly update will only apply to the core ten results returned, as described by Gary Illyes, webmaster trends analyst at Google.

What is the purpose of the mobile-friendly update?

Quite simply, Google wants to improve the mobile search experience for users by providing, richer, easier to consume content, well constructed for the device it is being viewed upon. By firstly introducing mobile compatibility as an algorithmic consideration, Google will reward those webmasters that provide a relevant experience in line with the above goal. To further enrich the user experience on mobile, mobile apps can now have sitemaps which will allow Google to better understand the content so that they are indexable and linked with mobile websites, providing a seamless mobile experience.

What can publishers do to embrace the update as an opportunity?

Check your destination sites meet Google’s criteria by using the mobile-friendly test tool.

  1. If you’re not already, start tracking organic rankings on mobile devices independently from desktop rankings, to monitor fluctuations and progress on your campaigns.
  2. Ensure your website is responsive / mobile-friendly, so that it complies with the upcoming update.
  3. If you have a mobile app, take a look at app indexing so that you can enhance your mobile experience by driving users from SERPs directly to your app.
  4. Optimise your mobile app to have keyword optimised titles and gain high quality ratings and reviews in app stores so that your app can start appearing in mobile SERPs if Google chooses to serve app results (which they already are).
  5. Implementing these updates within destination websites will ensure that any current mobile rankings will not be negatively impacted on, whilst using the update as an opportunity to further enhance the mobile experience offered through app synchronisation and indexing.