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This week, Google announced it will be boosting “the effect of the ranking signals” for its mobile-friendly ranking algorithm. While this means mobile-friendly sites will be prioritized even further in search results “beginning in May,” don’t expect the second coming of “Mobilegeddon.”

As Google said, if your site is already mobile-friendly, you have no need to fear, because “you will not be impacted by this update.”

The update is going to roll out gradually, meaning its impact will be even less noticeable.  Since the mobile-friendly algorithm runs on a page-by-page basis, it could take some time for Google to re-index all affected pages.

Between the slow rollout and the limited expected impact, the update might not seem like much to get excited about. But, if your site isn’t mobile-friendly, it means you have even more motivation to make the change before May. Even if your audience isn’t particularly likely to convert on mobile, you could be missing out on leads and traffic that is going to your competitors instead.

You can use the Google mobile-friendly tool to make sure your site passes the bar and won’t be impacted by the coming update.

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Like Google, Bing has been increasingly focused on delivering a mobile-friendly version of the web to its growing number of mobile users. Now, Bing has released a tool to help webmasters ensure their site meets the search engine’s standards for mobile-friendliness.

Specifically, the tool reviews your site based on the following criteria to decide if your site is mobile-friendly:

  • Viewport and Zoom control configuration
  • Width of page content
  • Readability of text on the page
  • Spacing of links and other elements on the page
  • Use of incompatible plug-ins

The tool will also notify webmasters if any of the above criteria were inaccessible or blocked, so you can remedy the problem.

MobileFriendly

Like the tool Google offered shortly before it released its “Mobile-Friendly Algorithm”, Bing’s tool delivers an overall verdict as to whether you site would be considered mobile-friendly by the search engine.

NotMobileFriendly

It will also explain what issues it detects and explain why your page fails, if that is the case.

Both Bing and Google’s tools reportedly detect essentially the same things, with little difference between the ultimate results. However, Bing’s tool is significantly faster and easier to use.

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While it is increasingly important for your site to be mobile-friendly, there are some unique risks to running a mobile-friendly site webmasters should be aware of. Google has been encouraging sites to implement mobile-friendly strategies, but it is also cracking down on mobile-only redirects if they are used for fraudulent or deceptive purposes.

Most of the time, mobile-only redirects are used to send mobile users to content they requested in a mobile-friendly format, however some use the redirects deceptively to direct smartphone traffic to unwanted content. In some cases these deceptive redirects can send smartphone users to entirely different websites than the one they requested.

The majority of webmasters aim to use redirects properly, but it has recently been found that deceptive redirects can find their ways onto websites without the webmaster ever knowing. This can potentially happen one of two ways:

  • Advertising: A malicious script installed to display ads may redirect mobile users to a different site without the webmasters knowledge.
  • Hacking: Some hackers set up redirects to spammy or malicious domains for mobile users only.

While it has become known that these redirects can be created without a webmaster’s awareness, Google has recently made it clear they will continue penalizing sites with these deceptive redirects. Google’s webmaster guidelines explicitly forbid these types of redirects and the search engine says it will enact manual penalties when they are discovered.

Thankfully, there is an incredibly easy test you can do right now to make sure your site hasn’t come down with a case of deceptive redirects. Just search for it in Google on your phone and click on the results.

Google also encourages webmasters to monitor their sites for user complaints as well as regularly reviewing analytics data for unusual activity such as any sudden drops in mobile traffic.

If you do find any evidence of deceptive mobile-only redirects, Google recommends checking Search Console for any warnings about site hacks. If you don’t see any alerts, it is possible there may be an issue with third-party scripts on your site. To figure out which one is causing problems, you will have to go through and disable them one at a time until the problem is resolved.

Large overlay advertisements will likely be going out of style fast, as Google has announced app interstitial ads that cover a “significant amount of content” on your page will be considered not mobile-friendly and will not rank as well as mobile-friendly pages.

The change will go into effect on November 1, but Google’s mobile-friendly testing tools are already showing them as not mobile-friendly as of yesterday. In the announcement, Google wrote:

After November 1, mobile web pages that show an app install interstitial that hides a significant amount of content on the transition from the search result page will no longer be considered mobile-friendly. This does not affect other types of interstitials. As an alternative to app install interstitials, browsers [should] provide ways to promote an app that are more user-friendly.

Here is an image to give you an idea of the kind of app interstitials that Google is attempting to do away with:

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Here is an example of the type of interstitials that will be considered mobile-friendly, according to Google:

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This means the native Apple-supported Smart Banners and Google Chrome-supported App Install Banners will continue to work just fine without causing any problems for your rankings, but the extra-large ones that cover up most or all of the page will no longer be mobile-friendly.

If you want to make sure your site is safe, be sure to test your pages that use app interstitials to ensure they pass the mobile-friendly test or the mobile usability test. Either of these tools will show you immediately if your pages have issues with app interstitials or other issues that may make your pages rank poorly on mobile searches.

Google said this only impacts app ads that block content like this while other ads not for apps will apparently remain unpunished. In the announcement, it said, “This does not affect other types of interstitials.”

Google’s upcoming mobile-friendly algorithm has webmasters panicking as the deadline fast approaches. As always, when there is fear there is also plenty of misinformation.

In particular, there is one myth going around which is stirring up quite a bit of trouble.

Google has attempted to be clear that their new mobile algorithm will demote pages that don’t pass a mobile-friendliness test when they might appear in mobile search results pages. Unfortunately, that is being misconstrued.

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As Barry Schwartz shared, emails are going around proclaiming Google will be completely removing sites from search results if they don’t live up to the mobile standard. Not demoted, but completely de-listed and removed from Google.

The rumor was noticed when Ashley Berman Hale, an active personality in the Google Webmaster Help Channels, posted an email she recently received with the title “Google Removing Your Site From Search Results This Month!”

The copy of the email then goes on to say, “Did you know Google will demote or delist you from their search results if you don’t have a mobile friendly site by April 21st?”

Now, the mobile algorithm on the horizon is certainly controversial among webmasters, but there is no need to be spreading outright lies. Google’s initial announcement of the algorithm was relatively vague, but they have been working hard to make sure webmasters’ questions were getting answered. It also didn’t take long for many of the experts from Google to chime in and clear the air.

Google’s Gary Illyes posted a response on Twitter:

Google’s John Mueller also posted a short statement on Google+ to make matters perfectly clear:

It’s great to get people motivated to make their website mobile-friendly, but we’re not going to be removing sites from search just because they’re not mobile-friendly. You can test your pages & reach our documentation (including some simple tweaks that might work for your CMS too) at http://g.co/mobilefriendly

Hopefully this settles the matter once and for all. Google’s algorithm WILL demote your site on mobile search results, but it WILL NOT affect you on desktop search results or completely remove you from the listings.

Gary Illyes at SMX West Photo Credit: Steve Boymel

Gary Illyes at SMX West
Photo Credit: Steve Boymel

After months of hints, Google officially announced they would be including mobile-friendliness as a ranking factor in their search engine results last week. Now we are getting more information about how the mobile-friendliness signal will be implemented when it goes into effect next month.

Google’s Gary Illyes answered several questions about the new ranking signal at SMX West, where he explained the ranking factor would operate in real time and works on a page-by-page basis.

The conversation started when Gary was asked if there was a deadline for when webmasters need to have their sites updates to avoid being negatively affected by the launch of the signal. According to his response, the algorithm will operate in real time, so you could theoretically update any time you want and expect to start benefiting from the signal immediately.

Most likely, the signal won’t actually operate in real time for webmasters, but will reflect the version indexed by Google. That means sites that don’t get indexed very often may want to ensure their sites are updated soon, while sites that are crawled and indexed daily can address the issue when they see fit.

Google has not clarified, but all sites will still get the most benefit from having their webpages ready before the April 21st launch.

Gary also stated the algorithm will operate on a page-by-page basis, so you will need to ensure every important individual page is updated.

This is important for many webmasters who have sub-sections or unique areas of their page that would be difficult to make mobile-friendly. If you have pages that aren’t intended for mobile users, you don’t have to worry about them impacting your other pages.

If you have many pages that aren’t easily usable for mobile visitors, you might want to reconsider your strategy overall as more traffic is coming from smartphones and tablets every day. The new ranking algorithm is a big statement from Google about the importance of mobile in the current state of the internet, and you can expect to continue to struggle if you resist the changing tides.

Everyone involved in SEO will tell you how drastically everything has changed this past year. They’ll emphasize how Penguin and Panda “changed everything” and they will be more than happy to talk about how dramatically linkbuilding strategies have been affected, but it seems like very few are talking about what these changes mean for SEO as a whole.

John Mihalik wrote about four strategic SEO trends that he sees as important for the rest of the year, but his predictions also work as a summary of where SEO is at right now. He misses a couple things that can’t be ignored like local SEO, but remembering these four trends Mihalik points out should be enough to give you a good idea of what SEO means for website owners today.

Quality is the New Standard – To be blunt, SEOs used to be able to take any site of almost any quality, and improve performance significantly with keyword stuffing, link buying, and all sorts of other borderline spammy tactics, but Google’s algorithm’s have advanced to unbelievable levels. With their complex set of metrics to evaluate sites by, Google can pretty confidently tell if a site is low quality, and there will be no way to bring a site out of the ether until the quality problem is solved.

Social is Important – Social signals are just now beginning to affect search results, but Google has made it more than clear they are implementing social signals into their algorithms and Facebook is working on improving their own search engine relying almost entirely on social data. Aside from questionable privacy practices, implementing social data into search makes sense. Interests, friend circles, location, and even internet habits can help search engines deliver results more tailored for individual people.

You Aren’t Mobile Friendly Yet? – At this point, any website without a responsive or mobile friendly version is beyond behind the times. More and more people are doing their searches on their phones and tablets. You can’t just throw together a low quality mobile portal either. Search engines look for the same quality signatures they do on desktop sites, and you won’t be getting any more traffic with a shoddy mobile page.

Knowledge Graph

The Knowledge Graph – Google’s knowledge graph, or that box of information in the top-right corner of your screen when you search for a celebrity or prominent brand, has been slowly becoming more common on SERPs over the past year. Mihalik also believes it offers an opportunity for brands to optimize their web presence and gain a little added performance for direct searches.

I question to efficiency or importance of the last one. The knowledge graph information does allow searchers to easily find concise information, but for a brand to appear on a SERP, the user has to search directly for that brand. If there is another company somewhere with the same name as yours, you could use the knowledge graph to gain a foot up on them, but otherwise I don’t see the knowledge graph becoming a cornerstone of SEO. Every other trend mentioned is pretty much a certainty at this point, however.