For many website operators out there, the phrase “Google algorithm changes” is the kind of thing that leaves a cold chill in the pit of the stomach. It can make or break a website, and often has. This time around, the search algorithm changes will hinge on how “mobile friendly” a website actually is, and right now, some fairly big names are set to get hit by changes in search ranking.
Sites that work well on mobile devices will get a boost under the new ratings, according to reports, while those which don't do so well will take a hit. Reports suggest that already, the BBC, the European Union, and even Wikipedia have failed the relevant sections of the Mobile Friendly Test developer tool. Starting April 21, a website's “mobile friendliness” will have an impact on where a site appears in Google (News - Alert) search results, and will include details like text size, the total amount of space between links, and whether or not content can fit on a mobile screen.
Google noted that the mobile friendliness portion of rankings was just “one of many” factors involved, but later noted in a blog post noting that mobile friendliness would have “a significant impact” on search results overall. A Google representative also noted that people were doing more searches on mobile devices, and Google wanted to make sure that the content involved was not only “...relevant and timely,” but was also easy to read from a mobile device.
Indeed, some developers are already referring to the new rankings as “mobilegeddon,” complete with a hashtag for the result. But there are things that can be done, the reports say, to help improve the standings. For instance, some businesses are turning to a process known as Responsive Design to help meet Google's new criteria, a process that actually changes the delivery of the site based on how the site is viewed. This should help get the site through Google's latest set of changes. However, some also point out that Responsive Design can overlook the factor of time taken to think about how a request is provided, and that lag can also impact Google rankings. What's more, response time has been shown to be important to readers as well, with 46 percent of users in recent studies showing users abandoning a site altogether if it takes more than three seconds to react at any point.
But at the end of the day, Google's new changes will likely mean what Google changes have meant for some time now; some sites will gain ground, some sites will lose ground, and some sites will probably end up shutting down. A recent complaint from the EU over “anti-competitive” behavior on Google's part likely won't help matters as far as regulators are concerned, and this latest move may well hurt Google in the long run.
Either way, it's clear there's a lot going on here, and Google's complexity can be seen in several lights. Some may call it a way to make search results better for users. Others may note the sheer number of innocent sites destroyed outright by these changes, and that Google shouldn't have this kind of market force. But regardless of stance on the issue, the changes are coming, and may well change the face of the Internet as we know it today.