The Mobocalypse is Near: Preparing for the Mobile-Friendly Google Search Algorithm Update


On April 21st Google will be releasing a new mobile-friendly factor to their search algorithm. Prepare yourself marketers, the Mobocalypse is near, and if you are not prepared it will take your traffic, leads and revenue.

Some have termed the new update “mobile-friendly apocalypse” or “mobilegeddon,” and while the terms may prove to be a bit dramatic, this update will affect many web pages and PageRankings.

Google’s Zineb Ait Bahajji said at SMX Munich that the forthcoming update will be more significant than Panda and Penguin (previous algorithm updates), and will affect up to 40% of web searches.

Google has not officially released all of the details about the new mobile-friendliness algorithm update, but this article will outline for you what is anticipated and ways to check your pages for mobile friendliness in preparation for the New Search Order to come.

Avoid Declining PageRank

Pages with poor mobile-usability will almost certainly see a declining PageRank post-update. How significantly PageRank will drop for non-mobile friendly pages is still to be determined, but it’s in your best interest to make sure your pages meet the new mobile friendliness requirement as soon as possible.

We do know that this update will affect PageRank on a page by page basis. This means that Google crawlers will not be looking at your site as a whole, but will be judging each page based on its own mobile friendliness.

Checking web pages for mobile-friendliness

Checking the mobile-friendliness of your site is relatively easy and can be done in two ways:

The Simple Way

The quickest way to check for mobile-friendliness is put your pages through the mobile friendliness test Google has set up. This will give you a pass or fail result for your page.

If you pass, congratulations, there is nothing else to do!

If you fail, it will outline changes you need to make in order pass the mobile friendly test.


The In-depth Way

Another way to check your pages for mobile-friendliness is through webmaster tools. If you have webmaster tools setup for your website, then log in and on the sidebar under search traffic > mobile usability, you can find the errors across your entire site.

This is helpful if you have a large site with many pages. If you do not have access to webmaster tools, ask your web designer or webmaster to give you the permissions to access, or set an account up yourself.

Steps to Fix a Mobile-unfriendly Site

If you fail the mobile-friendliness test, then Google will give you a list of items that need to be fixed. Unless you are confident and skilled with html and css, you will likely need someone to help you make this update. The list of items below include the main items Google is looking at when judging whether your page is mobile-friendly or not.

  • Size content to viewport

    Make sure that your web page doesn’t have content that can’t be contained within the viewport (the device screen). This means making sure that any divs or images don’t have absolute widths set to them, especially if they are larger than 320px.

    Check out this page for more information on sizing content to the viewport.

  • Size tap targets appropriately

    Buttons, links, and form fields should be appropriately sized and spaced apart in order for mobile users to easily use them. Google has specific sizes in their documentation outlining minimum sizing and spacing of tap targets (buttons, links and form fields). Tap targets must be 48px x 48px or larger, and links must be spaced 32px apart or more.

    Check out this page for more information on sizing tap targets appropriately.

  • Avoid plugins

    If you are using a content management system like WordPress, you may be running plugins on your site. Before you begin disabling or editing plugins running on your site, you should run the mobile friendly test first to be sure they aren’t an issue. For us, one of the plugins we were running was causing an issue for #2 – sizing tap targets appropriately.

    Check out this page for more information on avoiding plugins.

  • Configure the viewport

    Viewports control how your website content so that it can be viewed on a mobile device. Setting your content to a viewport via a meta tag will help insure your content is viewable on devices with screens smaller than a desktop, such as a mobile phone. This isn’t a full solution to making your content viewable on a smaller screen, but along with sizing all of your content to the viewport, it is a start.

    Check out this page for more information on configuring viewports.

  • Use legible font sizes

    You must make sure that your fonts are not to small on a mobile device. Google recommends a minimum font size of 16px (so make sure that is the smallest you are using), and has a detailed documentation page regarding further font size details.

    Check out this page for more information on using legible font sizes.

Benefits of the Update

If you do not already have a mobile friendly site, you are likely already missing out more than you think because your users are having a poor experience when they visit your site off of a desktop.

Many visitors to your site are probably leaving because they are frustrated with not being able to consume your content or find what they are looking for.

By making mobile-friendly updates to your web pages, you will likely see fewer drop offs and longer on-page times, in addition to higher conversion rates. You may also see an increased PageRank from making mobile improvements if your competitors are not mobile friendly or prepared for the update.

Avoiding the Mobocalypse

If you are at all concerned about your PageRank in Google, you should begin taking steps now to be sure your whole website, or at least your key high-traffic pages, are mobile friendly.

Your first step should be to check to see if your site is mobile friendly by visiting Google’s mobile friendliness test.

Hopefully you are already optimized for this new algorithm update, but if you’re not, this may be an opportunity to increase your PageRank and improve your user’s experience.

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About the Author:

John Weber

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