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After months of warnings, Google is officially rolling out its “Speed Update” for all users.

Google updated its original blog post to say the new ranking factor would be rolling out for all mobile search results throughout the day – though it is unclear exactly how long the Speed Update will take to fully go into effect.

What is Google’s Speed Update?

Essentially, Google’s Speed Update is just a mobile version of the speed-based algorithm used on desktop search results for years. Rather than rewarding the fastest sites, the update is better described as punishing the slowest sites online. This is particularly important for mobile-based search results because numerous studies have shown that people are likely to leave a webpage if it takes more than 3 seconds to load.

What this isn’t, is a large-scale algorithm shift. The majority of sites are likely to see little to no change after the roll-out. However, it is unclear just how harshly it will penalize the slowest sites out there.

Will you be affected?

Google refuses to give an exact estimate of just how many sites will be affected by the rollout, but they have said it will “only affect a small percentage of queries.”

Still, if your business’s website is notoriously slow, you may be at risk for a loss in search ranking and traffic. If you’re afraid you may be on the chopping block, you can see how your site stacks up using a number of Google’s tools, such as the Chrome User Experience report, the Lighthouse tool, or the Page Insights tool.

As always, it is recommended that you take steps to make your website as fast as possible. This can be done a number of ways, including reducing image file sizes, finding faster hosting, or reducing the number of widgets or the amount of content on a single page. Even if your site is safe from the Speed Update, you don’t want to risk losing potential customers while they wait for your page to load.

Google has officially begun rolling out the intrusive mobile interstitial penalty yesterday after months of warnings the penalty would be launched on January 10, 2017.

The roll-out was confirmed by both John Mueller and Gary Illyes yesterday.

The penalty is specifically designed to target intrusive interstitials that pop-up immediately after landing on a page from a Google mobile search result. However, it does not affect pages with delayed interstitials triggered by a click or action on the website.

Google specifies this means “pages where content is not easily accessible to a user on the transition from the mobile search results may not rank as highly.”

Google also detailed three specific types of interstitials it deems as problematic:

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  • showing a popup that covers the main content, either immediately after the user navigates to a page from the search results or while they are looking through the page.
  • displaying a standalone interstitial that the user has to dismiss before accessing the main content.
  • using a layout where the above-the-fold portion of the page appears similar to a standalone interstitial, but the original content has been inlined underneath the fold.

The company also detailed three types of interstitials that would not be affected by the penalty, so long as they are “used responsibly”:

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  • Interstitials that appear to be in response to a legal obligation, such as for cookie usage or for age verification.
  • Login dialogs on sites where content is not publicly indexable. For example, this would include private content such as email or unindexable content that is behind a paywall.
  • Banners that use a reasonable amount of screen space and are easily dismissible. The app install banners provided by Safari and Chrome are examples of banners that use a reasonable amount of screen space.

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Google is making a huge change to their search engine that could have huge implications for the future of search.

Until now, Google has maintained a single search index, which cataloged the entire web for Google’s algorithm to sort through. However, that will be changing soon as Google’s Gary Illyes announced the search engine would be releasing a separate mobile search index.

The new mobile index will become Google’s “primary” index that it uses to deliver the majority of search results. At the same time, the company will continue to maintain a separate desktop search index which will be slightly less up-to-date.

The announcement came last week during a keynote address at Pubcon from Gary Illyes, webmaster trend analyst with Google. While Illyes later confirmed to Search Engine Land the rollout of the new index would be coming within “months,” he was otherwise short on details of how the mobile index will work.

It is also unclear in which circumstances Google will use which search index or just how behind the desktop index is. What is clear is that Google sees mobile as the future of search despite still seeing significant desktop usage.

Most likely, the new index means Google will be switching from a system which selectively pulls information from the single index for mobile results to a new system which uses the separate index for queries coming from mobile devices.

More information is likely to come in the near future, but for now, all we know is Google is gearing up for big changes to further prioritize mobile searchers.

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It has been clear for some time now that neglecting to have a mobile-friendly site can hurt your Google rankings, particularly in mobile search results. However, some have been wondering if the reverse is also true. Does having a desktop-friendly web site have a similar negative impact on your desktop rankings in Google?

Well, last Friday Google’s John Mueller clarified the situation in a Google Hangout, saying you do not need a “desktop-friendly” site in order to rank well on desktop. The only caveat is that your mobile site must still render properly on desktop.

John Mueller said that you need to “make sure that desktop users can still see some of your content, if it is formatted in a way that works best for mobile, that’s perfectly fine.”

“You definitely do not need a specific desktop website in addition to a mobile website,” Mueller added.

If your business depends on desktop traffic and conversions to properly reach your market, it is still highly important to provide a pleasing experience when users come to your site. For that reason, I’d hesitate to suggest going all-in on mobile leaning design utilizing extra-large buttons and minimal navigation.

The most reliable strategy is to use a design technique such as responsive design to provide a great experience for users no matter where they are coming from. If that isn’t an option, it may still be best to keep operating separate sites for mobile and desktop so you don’t wind up losing customers just because they are using a desktop computer or smartphone.

You can see the full video below, or jump to 12:50 in the video to get straight to Mueller’s answer.

When Google rolled out its Mobile-Friendly Algorithm the results were initially underwhelming. Despite weeks of frightening articles about the so-called “Mobilepocalypse” or “Mobilegeddon”, the search results listings were largely the same in the immediate wake of the algorithm launch. However, a new study from Moovweb shows brands without mobile-friendly sites are starting to feel the pain.

The new study, which tracked clear visibility and ranking, shows consequences are beginning to affect sites who have yet to make their site easily usable for mobile searchers.

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Moovweb has been tracking “1,000 important e-commerce keywords in a range of industries” ever since the rollout of the Mobile-Friendly Algorithm on April 21 to see how the new algorithm is impacting mobile rankings on Google.

According to the study, top listings for search keywords were mobile-friendly 83 percent of the time, and 81 percent of the time the top three listings were. A review of the full page results showed 77 percent of page one results on Google mobile SERPs were mobile-friendly.

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The chart above shows the percentage of mobile-friendly sites in each of the top 10 positions across all keywords tested.

The company says mobile-friendliness in search results varied by vertical, with some industries being distinctly more mobile-friendly than others. Out of seven categories studied, retail had the most mobile-friendly results and transportation showed the lowest percentage of mobile-friendly results.

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It may have taken months, but the impact of Mobilegeddon is starting to become more obvious, but there is good news if you are starting to feel the pain. Google’s Mobile-Friendly Algorithm runs in real time, so you can make your site mobile-ready any time and expect to see fast results on mobile SERPs.

Mobile search has gotten a lot of attention this year as it has overtaken desktop search in many metrics, but a new report from mobile loyalty company SessionM shows how ubiquitous the use of mobile devices to aid in the shopping experience has become.

SessionM surveyed 12,000 randomly selected US smartphone users on their mobile shopping behaviors and the findings highlight just how large a role mobile devices play in the shopping process.

The company said 85 percent of respondents reported their m-commerce buying was steady or had increased compared to a year ago while approximately 15 percent told the company mobile buying had increased “significantly.

Personal data security and/or poor user experiences (e.g., too small images or text) were cited as barriers preventing mobile e-commerce from more growth.

According to the findings, more than 90 percent of respondents had made a retail purchase within the past 90 days before the study. The majority (73 percent) of those purchases were made in traditional, brick-and-mortar stores, and approximately 53 percent said they found the in-store experience superior to online/mobile shopping.

However, the study also found mobile search plays a vital role in the in-store shopping process. The overwhelming majority of respondents (90 percent) said they use their smartphones in stores while shopping. The top activities on smartphones while in-stores breaks down as follows:

  1. Price comparisons — 54 percent
  2. Looking up product information — 48 percent
  3. Checking reviews online — 42 percent

SessionM also had recommendations for valuable marketing opportunities for retailers from the data:

  • Opportunity surrounding in-store push notifications about deals/offers (57 percent were more likely to shop at a store if available)
  • Loyalty programs (76 percent would be more likely to shop at a store if available)

The data confirms what several other studies have found in the past. Shoppers are using their smartphones in stores to help them make informed purchases, but many retailers are failing to take advantage of any of the opportunities this presents.

You would think the sky is falling given how webmasters and online marketing experts are responding to Google’s huge upcoming mobile algorithm. Sites are tossing around all manner of terrifying nicknames such as the mobilepocalypse, mobilegeddon, mobocalypse, or mopocalypse to stir up fear and panic, but the truth is the upcoming update shouldn’t be all that scary for you.

If your site serves mobile users and you care at all about your customers, you should already have made efforts to make your site mobile-friendly. While a big ranking drop seems frightening, the truth is that mobile users are probably already avoiding your site. Don’t think of the upcoming change as being forced to change your site to please search engines. Thank of it as improving your site for mobile users.

Countless sites are talking about the “mobilepocalypse” as if the world is ending, but I’ve already covered the simple set of steps you need to take to check that your site is ready for the mobile update. If you aren’t passing Google’s mobile test, this infographic from Nine Hertz will walk you through what needs to be done before the 21st.

 Mobilepocalypse

Mobile-Search-Image-MashableDespite numerous  studies showing that mobile is beginning to overtake desktop, a new survey by Marin Software shows only a third of the 300+ digital marketers polled in the U.S. and UK make mobile a priority.

Over half (57 percent) said they optimize for mobile when they can but don’t put great focus on it, while 10 percent said mobile is not a significant part of their strategy at all.

The survey does suggest lack of time and resources could take partial responsibility for the lag. Three-quarters of those polled said their jobs became more complex over the past year as a result of media fragmentation and data overload.

Other portions of the findings suggest hurdles in implementing cross-channel marketing may also play a significant role. Attribution modeling across channels was cited as the biggest road block to implementing effective cross-channel marketing. As Ginny Marvin explains, “If marketers can’t successfully measure the impact of their mobile campaigns, they’ll put their attention elsewhere.”

These problems were reflected in the findings that half of those surveyed also cited a lack of transparency into the necessary data.

While properly prioritizing mobile can be difficult, the latest indications show that mobile will only be more important in the next few years and smartphones improve and society gets more comfortable using phones and tablets in their day-to-day life. Marketers and businesses who stall on prioritizing mobile will eventually have a lot of catching up to do.

search-engine-optimization-411106_640If you are still running SEO the same way you were at the start of the year you are already behind the curve. SEO is constantly changing and proper SEO strategies need to be well-planned enough to stay on target over long periods of time while also flexible enough to adapt to the constant guideline changes, algorithm roll-outs, and new ideas about usability.

In the past year alone, Google has pushed out 13 updates to algorithms that the public knows about. That number is just the big algorithms that people might know by name such as Penguin and Panda, while there has also been a multitude of more incremental changes that have gone undocumented in the public.

You don’t have to rebuild your SEO plans from the ground up every time there are significant changes over at Google, but you need to keep the biggest changing trends in mind as you progress and refine efforts. As we head into 2015, consider the most important shifts in SEO thinking that have happened over the past year.

1. Focus on Mobile Traffic

This may not be the newest shift in SEO, but it is more important than ever and all indications suggest mobile isn’t slowing down any time soon. Google has also shown their commitment to improving the mobile web with the introduction of mobile analytics tools and new warnings for users who are about to click on non-mobile friendly websites.

You can see if your site passes Google’s mobile-friendly test here, but don’t stop with that. Ensure your mobile site lives up the standards set by your desktop page and your company to keep mobile customers coming.

2. Optimizing for Alternative Search Engines

There is plenty of evidence to suggest that 2015 may be the year when Google’s iron grasp on search market share could start to crumble. Google has lost some major clout as Firefox replaced the search giant with Yahoo as the default search engine for the browser. Google’s agreement with Safari is also ending this year, and Apple seems keen to replace their competitor’s search engine with a more neutral option such as Bing, Yahoo, or even DuckDuckGo.

Even if Google maintains a strong majority of the market share (which they likely will) you should still make it your mission to be visible across all platforms, not just the most popular one.

3. Stop Focusing on Rankings and Start Looking at ROI Metrics

Rankings are so last year. Since all the major search engines have put a heavy emphasis on personalized search results that cater to users’ interests and location data, there is no guarantee your site will show as the top result for someone else even if it is the top result for you. Instead, turn your attention to return on investment. It offers a more accurate depiction of how your online marketing efforts are working, and gives a more direct understanding of the value of your SEO.

4. Emphasize Social Media

In the past, emphasizing social media basically meant blasting the same updates across every platform you can find. But, social media has matured and users won’t respond to your efforts if you treat every platform as the same. You should learn the unique demographics and behaviors of any social media platform you are considering sharing on, and ensure your ideas, voice, and medium match the crowd.

More importantly, social media users expect brands to more than just yell at them. Users expect ways to engage your brand and establish a more personal connection. The best solution is to isolate two or three social media platforms that best suit your brand and build on your efforts there. If you can really succeed there, you won’t need to be on the other social sites.

5. Earn Links, Don’t Hoard Them

You have most likely heard the routine proclamations that “links are dead!” more than once since Google began cracking down on weak or suspicious link portfolios. However, this is no truer now than when the internet first gained a foothold in our society. Links are still the most influential signal of trust and authority to search engines and that is going to stay the case for quite some time. However, the game has changed in a couple important ways.

Back in 2011, you could purchase countless low-quality links to masquerade as a reputable site. Now, Google has means of seeing through the mask. Google can analyze link quality and they don’t take kindly to poor quality, irrelevant links meant to boost visibility without effort. In 2015, earning a single high-quality link the right way is worth more than any number of links you could buy or collude to gain. Put your effort into proper SEO and you’ll find success. Rely on shady tactics and Google will be hunting for you.

rsz_1377498_16940838Google has made it very clear that mobile SEO is going to play a big part in their plan moving forward. Last month, Google’s webspam team leader Matt Cutts stated as such during the SMX Advanced Conference in Seattle and Google’s own Webmaster Central Blog confirmed the changes will be here very soon. A recent update told webmasters, “We plan to roll out several ranking changes in the near future that address sites that are misconfigured for smartphone users.”

It isn’t like these changes are coming out of nowhere. Analysts have been encouraging site owners and SEO professionals to pay attention to their mobile sites for years and mobile traffic increases show no signs of slowing down. So, you would think most companies with a fair amount of resources would already be ahead of the curve, but a recent assessment run by mobile marketing agency Pure Oxygen Labs shows that the top 100 companies on the Fortune 500 list are actually in danger of Google penalties in the near future.

Pure Oxygen Labs used their proprietary diagnostic tools to evaluate sites against Google’s best-practice criteria, according to Search Engine Land. They hoped to see how many sites redirected smartphone users to mobile pages, how these redirects are configured, and how widely responsive design was actually being used to reach mobile users.

Only six of the 100 Fortune 500 companies had sites that properly follow Google’s best-practices. The report stated that 11 percent of the sites use responsive design techniques, while only 56 percent of the sites served any sort of content formatted for their mobile users. That means 44 percent had absolutely nothing in the way of mobile optimized sites or content.

The six that actually completely complied with Google’s policies included Google, so it should be noted that means only five outside companies were safe from future penalties at the moment.

There were multiple reasons sites were ill-equipped, but the most common problems were faulty redirects and lack of responsive design, both issues Google has singled out recently as their primary targets for future attacks on poorly configured mobile sites.