Back in November, Google confirmed in its Webmaster Central Blog that it was experimenting with a special ranking algorithm for mobile-friendly websites; last week, evidence emerged that it has indeed released a new mobile algorithm.
With the number of people accessing digital content via smartphones burgeoning across the world, the development is hardly surprising. There’s no official confirmation from Google yet, but some compelling clues have built up over the last week, beginning on Monday 26th January, when digital marketing specialists Bronco noted online community reports of significant changes in organic search results.
The plot thickened later that day during a Google Webmaster Help hangout when Google’s John Mueller expressly ruled out changes in Panda or Penguin as responsible for the fluctuations. Website owners then began to report that they’d received messages in their webmaster tools concerning how well (or not) their site has handling mobile search users. Many saw reductions in organic rankings.
Writing on Bronco MD, David Naylor’s, SEO blog, digital marketing consultant Alex Graves cites two examples which strongly implicate a mobile algorithm: one website serving full content to desktop users but snippets to mobile users (who were prompted to download a mobile app to access the full version) saw itself being instantly de-indexed. The “snippet only” approach breaches Google’s logic, which insists that there should be uniformity in the quality of experience for both mobile and desktop users.
The same fate befell a site that pushed geolocation (mobile) traffic to alternative website options in the hope of creating conversions. Google didn’t like that one bit: mobile users are not to be treated differently to desktop users, and the site in question received a manual penalty and a ‘Sneaky Redirect/Cloaking, warning.
On 29th January, search engine marketing expert Jennifer Slegg wrote in SEMPost.com that she too had received reports that sites, which clearly weren’t mobile-friendly, had suffered following the update. Slegg also pointed to the smoke indicating a mobile algorithm fire: Google has recently updated its Webmaster Tools platform to log mobile-related issues uncovered by its mobile crawlers in their endeavours to access websites.
The lack of confirmation from Google and the absence of any reference to a newly-named algorithm isn’t unusual: but if it walks like a duck, looks like a duck and quacks like a duck, it’s probably a duck.