It seems like once a year news comes from the search engine world that a new and improved algorithm will sweep the industry off of its feet. People panic, massive amounts of money are spent on SEO efforts, and consultants have a field day.

This year is no different — with one major caveat. Google’s looming April 21st mobile algorithm change does not penalize sites with spam content or shady SEO practices. It instead focuses on usability and design. Its core is aimed at improving the user experience.

Read on for a historic view of major updates, and an explanation of why you cannot afford to ignore the most recent. After your done cruise on over to my latest post that outlines some of the tools to check your site for mobile usability.

A Look Into Historic Google Updates:

2011 – Panda:

  • This massive update affected 11.8% of internet sites.
  • Primarily targeted content farms, article directories, and content aggregators.
  • Enacted to help deter the abuse of google page rankings.

2012 – Penguin:

  • A big strike towards “black hat” SEO techniques.
  • Shrinking priority for back-linking and keyword tags.
  • Update affects around 3% of English language searches.

April 21st 2015 – “Mobile Updates:”

  • Adjust Page Rank in Google Search for mobile devices based on the quality of the site from a mobile perspective.
  • Utilize “Mobile-Friendly” tagging to direct users towards pages optimized for their device.
  • Increase the search visibility of indexed mobile apps for relevant users.
  • Projected to affect significantly more sites than Panda and Penguin.

So what does this actually mean?

From a user perspective the most recent change is a good thing. It means that when you are looking for a site on your mobile phone or tablet you will find results that are more functional. In the end it means a better user experience.

From a business perspective this could mean a few things, illustrated below:

Scenario 1:

Your site is responsive and optimized for mobile usability, or has a dedicated mobile variant. You may only need to make small tweaks here and there to improve the user mobile experience.

Result: You can sit back and reap the benefits of a search engine that rewards you for running a website that works for your users.

Scenario 2:

Your site has recently been redone, but responsive design or mobile best practices have been avoided due to time constraints, budget, or other factors.

Result: Your mobile rankings will be affected negatively after April 21st. This is a hard one to recover from. Making a site responsive after designing it is kind of like building a house and then trying to dig a basement… it just doesn’t make much sense.

Scenario 3:

You have a site that is a few or more years old. You might love (or hate) your site, but it has served its purpose for a while.

Result: Your mobile rankings will be affected negatively after April 21st.

Silver Lining: This is a great metaphorical kick in the butt. Its time… a new website is a large investment, but the payoffs can be great! Today 55%+ of your users utilize mobile phones. Don’t leave them hanging — build responsive.


Curious if your site passes the test?

Visit my latest post to read about Google’s own testing tools.