One of the most significant updates to Google’s mobile search algorithm has officially landed on the world wide web.

What’s been described in the press as “mobilegeddon” is being rolled out from today (April 21), causing websites to slide down or up the SERPs (search engine results pages) depending on how well they cater for smartphones.

As well as tackling conventional publishers, Google’s algorithm will also apply the same mobile grading system to the websites of major corporations.

Microsoft and the European Union are among the sites being touted as guaranteed ‘losers’ and could well see a drop in their mobile search rankings.

Mobile friendly?

Websites have been giving themselves the best chance of preparing for the event by using Google’s online test, released following the update’s announcement in February. 

The web giant estimates that 50% of searches conducted on its own engine come from mobile devices, stressing the need for a rankings system which takes into account a site’s performance on mobile.

Site owners can still check to see whether their website is “mobile-friendly” by entering their domain and allowing a “Googlebot” to perform a quick background check on its functionality.

Factors which could see a site downgraded in Google’s search rankings include text which is too small to read or pages which are unresponsive. 

What’s been made clear by Google is that while certain sites could see a decrease in search visibility, this will only be for mobile searches; their desktop or tablet rankings remaining the same.  

This may still hit some sections of the commerce industry, though, as reports suggested that sites such as Next and Ryanair could be under threat.

The bigger picture 

Given the impact of its predecessors, Mobilegeddon could be about to make waves around the retail community, many of whom rely heavily on their smartphone rankings to drive sales.

In a previous update – Panda 4.0, released in May 2014 – was said to have lost 20% of its general visibility on Google. 

Still, many believe that site owners shouldn’t be looking at the “mobile-friendly” tag as a barometer of SEO success, stressing the need for wider tests of optimisation.

“Mobile-friendliness alone will not be enough from a search engine optimisation (SEO) point of view, “ comments Gregor Rechberger, product manager at software group Micro Focus. 

“Google is also currently experimenting with a “slow” tag on its search pages. This red slow label first appeared on a few Android devices a couple of weeks ago, warning users that a site is slow before they click on a search result.
“We know from the past that Google places a lot of emphasis on performance and that it takes speed into account for its search rankings. But it seems that website owners never really prioritised the performance of their website for SEO.”

Following sightings of the red label, Rechberger claims that Google is trying to highlight that it will be taking site performance seriously, particularly for mobile.

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