Google Adds Mobile-Friendliness and Indexed Apps as Mobile Search Rankings Factors

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Recently, Google announced that it will be adding mobile-friendliness and indexed apps as ranking factors for search. This is no surprise, as mobile use continues to eclipse desktop use. Globally, new data suggests that 80% of Internet users own a smartphone.

For businesses who depend on mobile search to get users to their website, the rankings change is significant.

Mobile-Friendliness

Google first introduced a mobile-friendly label in search results for mobile users last November. The label identified sites that the Googlebot determined to be mobile friendly, but it didn’t affect rankings.

The new ranking algorithm update will take effect April 21, affecting mobile searches in all languages worldwide. This effect on rankings will likely be significant for many sites.

The change will give a mobile search rankings boost to sites that meet Google’s mobile-friendly criteria. Your site will do well if it:

  • Doesn’t rely on Flash software
  • Displays text that’s readable without zooming on mobile
  • Sizes content responsively to the screen — no horizontal scrolling or zooming needed
  • Displays links with appropriate spacing for mobile touchscreen use

In short, if your site was built with a responsive content and responsive typography design, you’re all set, and you should see improved SERPs rankings.

If your site isn’t mobile-friendly, now would be the time to update. Google offers a nice guide to get you started.

If you’re not sure where your site stands, you can take Google’s mobile friendly test. There’s more documentation and personalized feedback available to your developer at Google’s Webmasters Mobile Guide, as well.

Indexed Apps

The other big change announced has to do with indexed app content. This change should start injecting relevant content from mobile applications directly into a mobile user’s search results. You can get a crash-course in what this looks like here.

The indexed apps change is already live, so users will begin to notice app content returned in search results.

In contrast to the mobile-friendliness change, this change is rather specific. Only mobile device users who have a particular indexed app installed on their device and who are currently logged in to the app will see app content show up in their search results.

This could affect businesses positively that have an app with a strong user base competing with standalone websites. The immediate examples that come to mind are restaurant review and locator apps, such as OpenTable or Yelp. However, an individual restaurant website may find itself competing with search results for these apps.

The process for getting your app into the Google Index is definitely a job for your developer. Google has put together a handy step-by-step guide for developers to learn how to index content from their apps.

Summary

The lesson for business owners is clear. Mobile is here to stay and it’s only going to become more dominant in the future. If you’ve been holding off on mobile-ready web design changes, now is the time to act.

At 48%, search engines are still the preferred starting point for mobile users looking for information. Data from Pew indicates that more than two-thirds of 18–49 year olds have a smartphone. The same research indicates that ownership rises with income.

It’s likely many businesses will implement the changes Google requires to keep up, but you can make your business stand out by staying ahead of the curve. It’s always a stronger position to make proactive rather than reactive moves. Check in frequently with your SEO expert and developer, and the next time Google makes a big change like this you won’t have to scramble.

Update:

Barry Schwartz, Search Engine Lands’ news editor, is reporting that ahead of the SMX Munich search engine conference that Google’s Zineb Ait Bahajji from the Webmaster Trends team is being quoted as saying that “the upcoming mobile-friendly ranking algorithm that will launch on April 21st will have more of an impact on Google’s search results than the Google Panda update and the Google Penguin update did.”