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Preparing for April 21st
No—April 21st is not my birthday (it’s April 13th so let me know if you want my Amazon Wish List), it’s the day Google plans to begin rolling out its mobile-friendly ranking change to its mobile search results algorithm.
Yes, that’s right,
Mobile-friendliness is now a ranking factor.
To help webmasters get ready for April 21st, Google hosted a Q&A session on Google+ today to answers some FAQs about the algo-update. I attended and took notes on what I felt like were the most relevant points to Blue Corona’s blog readers.
Will I Be Impacted by the April 21st Algo Update Immediately?
All languages and countries will be impacted by the rollout, but Google noted that it will take several days or up to a week for the rollout to be complete. If you aren’t impacted on the 21st, don’t assume you’re safe!
Will the Algorithm Affect All Searches?
No. The April 21st update will only impact searches performed on mobile devices. Desktop search will not be impacted. Google’s reps said to expect drastic changes between the mobile results and desktop results.
Why Does Google’s Mobile-Friendly Test Preview My Site Differently than My Phone?
Google’s Mobile-Friendly Test Tool actually shows you how Googlebot views your site. So if you’re blocking certain resources from Googlebot, the tool will not display those resources.
Can I Share Indexing Signals Between the Mobile Version and Desktop Version of a Web Page?
Yes. If you connect your mobile (m.yoursite.com or whatever your mobile site is) and desktop site properly, Google will consolidate ranking signals, such as backlinks.
For example, if you have three links to a mobile version of a page and two links to the desktop version of the same page, Google will consolidate that as five links to both pages for its ranking formula.
Do I Have to Have an M Dot Mobile Site or Can I Set Up a Different Domain?
It’s fine to have your mobile site set up on a different domain (other than m.site.com) as long as you set up bi-directional annotations. Google’s reps also recommend you tell them in your sitemap which is the desktop version and which is the mobile version.
Does Every Page on My Website Need to Be Mobile-Friendly?
Mobile-friendly is on a per page basis (not on a per site basis). So, for example, if your homepage is mobile-friendly but none of your blog posts are, your blogs won’t get a ranking boost (per the April 21st algo update) simply because your homepage is mobile-friendly.
How Much of a Ranking Boost Will Mobile-Friendly Pages Receive
If your page is listed as mobile-friendly in search results, you’ll receive the mobile-friendly ranking benefit. Keep in mind there are over 200 other ranking factors.
Instead of chasing the algorithm, Google—as always—recommends you focus on creating a positive user experience for your website visitors. Having mobile-friendly sites is one way to do so, and Google’s reps also recommended focusing on security, spam, and abuse prevention.
What Does Google Prefer—Mobile, Responsive, or Dynamic?
Google prefers responsive, but that doesn’t mean that Google’s algorithm favors responsive. Basically, having a responsive website doesn’t necessarily mean you will rank better than a mobile website.
However, there are other benefits to going responsive. With a responsive website, you only have to worry about maintaining one site and there are fewer things that could go wrong to hurt your SEO. For example, with a responsive site, you don’t have to worry about canonicals and redirects.
If Google Webmaster Tools Is Reporting Mobile Usability Errors but the Mobile-Friendly Test Tool Isn’t, which Should I Believe?
There’s a little bit of a lag in Google Webmaster Tools’ reporting, and you can tell when your site was last crawled by the tool. The most reliable way to check if you have mobile usability problems is through the Google Mobile-Friendly Test Tool.
What if I Don’t Have a Mobile-Friendly Site by April 21st?
Google recommends you still get started on making your website mobile-friendly. Even if you can’t make the deadline, you can still benefit from the update once you launch your mobile-friendly website and Google re-crawls your site.
Do I Have to Worry About Duplicate Content Between My Mobile Site and Desktop Site?
Use directional annotations if you have a separate mobile site so that you don’t have duplicate content on your desktop and mobile sites.
Google’s reps also noted that there is no duplicate content penalty—this is a common misconception amongst webmasters.
For My Mobile Site, Should I Use a Subdomain or a Sub Directory?
Google doesn’t prefer one over the other. Do what makes sense for your site.
Common Mobile Website Mistakes
Using Google’s Mobile-Friendly Test Tool is the best way to see if you’re making any common mobile website mistakes that could hurt your rankings come April 21st. Nonetheless, here are some of the most common errors that Google has noted:
- Unplayable content
- Faulty redirects
- Mobile-only 404s
- App download interstitials
- Irrelevant cross-links
- Slow mobile pages
Need Help Going Mobile?
Contact Blue Corona by April 1st and we’ll make sure your site is mobile-friendly by April 21st.
Blue Corona specializes in designing responsive websites and landing pages that are not only beautiful but also rank well in search results and help achieve your business goals: increased traffic, leads, and sales. Check out our website design portfolio!
When you sign up for our responsive website design services, we can handle all aspects of your website design, from hosting to design to copywriting, SEO, and more. Fill out a form today or give us a call!
About The Author: Blue Corona is a data-driven online marketing company with offices in Gaithersburg, MD and Charlotte, N.C.
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