A recently announced change to Google’s search algorithm could end up wreaking havoc on corporate Web site page rankings around the world. That's because Google will now give more weight to sites that are "mobile-friendly," rather than being predominantly designed to be viewed on regular Web browsers.
The change, which was originally announced in a blog post in February, is scheduled to go into effect on April 21. Although this is not the first time Google has made changes to the way its algorithm ranks sites in its search results, the company acknowledged that the change “will have a significant impact in our search results.”
Layout, Navigation Will Be Key
However, Webmasters won't have to face the transition on their own. Google is providing an online tool they can use to test the mobile-friendliness level of their sites. It has also posted a step-by-step guide detailing the changes Webmasters should make to ensure their sites remain high in the search rankings.
Like the rest of the workings of Google’s algorithm, the details behind the new changes are secret. Nonetheless, the search engine has listed several issues that the algorithm will begin evaluating when determining page rankings.
Chief among these will be the way that a page layout is displayed on a mobile device. Sites that fail to have separate mobile versions that are easy to ready will be penalized in the rankings. To achieve that, Google recommended that Webmasters use responsive Web design to ensure that their sites are optimized for tablets, phones, and any other mobile devices, rather than adopting separate URLs for mobile devices.
According to the mobile-friendliness guide, it seems that Google will also be taking into account the overall usability of a site on a mobile platform. That would presumably include how easy it is for users to navigate sites and the number of steps they need to take to finish certain processes, such as completing a purchase.
Loading Times Could Hurt Corporate Sites
“When it comes to search on mobile devices, users should get the most relevant and timely results, no matter if the information lives on mobile-friendly Web pages or apps,” Google wrote in the blog post announcing the change. “As more people use mobile devices to access the Internet, our algorithms have to adapt to these usage patterns.”
Loading time will likely also be a factor. Web sites that take too long to load on mobile devices will be penalized. That may end up relegating many corporate Web sites, which can often be data-heavy and slow to render, further down the list of search results. But the change should make it easier for mobile users to find relevant, high-quality search results that are optimized for their devices, according to Google.