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Google mobile updates

Google algorithm updates that prioritize mobile optimization of websites are described as Google mobile updates. Google made mobile friendliness a ranking factor for mobile search results with the first rollout in 2015.

Searchmetrics Glossary: Google mobile update

Mobilegeddon – Google updates with media impact

In 2015, for the first time in its history, Google prominently and with an exact date for the rollout announced an update of its algorithm. The update, which has gone down in Google updates history as “mobilegeddon”, was not only discussed in SEO circles or in related blogs, but was also taken up by mass media such as Forbes.

The “mobilegeddon” description was first used in the US online marketing scene. The term is made up of “mobile” and “Armageddon”. The very warlike description of “mobilegeddon” for the Google update was supposed to emphasize its importance. For several years, webmasters across the world had assumed that websites not optimized for smartphones and other mobile devices would suffer considerable ranking losses after the rollout. In reality, the effects of the first mobile update on rankings on and shortly after April 21, 2015 were limited.

It is possible that the low impact to was less than projected since mobile search results were the only results affected by the content of the algorithm update. At the same time it was assumed that what Google really wanted was to create attention for the topic of “mobile optimization”.

Almost a year after the rollout of the first mobile update the second mobile update followed in June 2016. Searchmetrics analysis has shown that this time, too, the effects on ranking and therefore traffic remained on the manageable side. This meant the effects of the algorithm adjustments were generally significantly less than, for example, in the Google Panda update or the Google Penguin update.

Properties of the Google mobile update

  • Mobile friendliness becomes a ranking factor.
  • The search results of mobile search, for example, with a smartphone are affected.
  • The algorithm is URL-based and not across an entire domain.
  • Pages can continue to rank well in the mobile search results even if they are not optimized for mobile devices.
  • Google automatically recognizes whether a page is mobile friendly.

What are Google’s goals with the mobile updates?

As with all Google updates, mobile updates have the goal of making search results better for users. But where the conventional adjustments to the algorithm of the search engine affected all search queries, the effect of the mobile update is limited to mobile SERPs.

With the upgrade of mobile friendliness, Google is following a trend in internet use. In some sectors today, far more than half of all search queries are carried out on smartphones.

The introduction of the mobile update surely has an even more tangible purpose for Google. For if the search engine company is to continue to deliver relevant and high-quality search results, the sites included in the index must also meet the user requirements. If users lose trust in these search results because target sites that are not optimized for mobile create poor usability, they may in the future turn to a different search engine.

Consequences of the mobile update for webmasters and SEOs

If webmasters and companies do not optimize their websites for smartphones and other mobile end-devices, they risk ranking losses in the mobile SERPs. These losses can take place due to the direct use of the mobile algorithm. Note also that sites that are not suitable for smartphones are sending negative user signals to Google. This means that the exit rate can increase and the visit durations fall.

What needs to be considered in mobile optimization?

As part of the introduction of the mobile update, webmasters are globally advised to optimize their own websites for mobile. One method, also recommended by Google, is responsive design. This allows the content and layout of websites to directly adapt to the respective mobile device. What’s important above all in responsive design is that the viewport tag be correctly set.

A further opportunity for mobile optimization is to create special subdomains for mobile devices. In the case of specialized subdomains, two versions of a website must be maintained. This, in turn, can have effects on further elements such as canonical tags, rel=alternate or XML sitemaps.

For mobile optimization, it is important to consider the different handling of the website. This means websites are operated via a touchscreen on smartphones, but are available with a mouse and keyboard on desktops.

Markups may become even more important in future, particularly in the optimization for smartphones, if websites are operated by voice control, for example.

UNIVERSAL SEARCH 2018
It’s a Mobile World After All

Read Searchmetrics’ study with data and insights into the world of Universal Search integrations. This year’s focus in on mobile.