Google will implement a dramatic change to its search algorithm on April 21, 2015. Zineb Ait Bahajji, a Google Webmaster Trends analyst, has said that the new algorithm will have a greater effect on a site’s ranking in Google search results than either Panda or Penguin. The primary result of the change is that it will favor web pages that are fully optimized for mobile devices.
Google announced the new algorithm in February 2015 on its Webmaster Central Blog, which states that mobile-friendliness will become a ranking criterion on April 21. This announcement adds that this change will carry a significant weight in Google’s search results and will apply to searches in all languages. Web pages that aren’t optimized for mobile devices are therefore likely to experience a ranking decrease in searches by mobile users. The severity of this effect will depend on the method used to design the site. The new Google algorithm will consider three possible designs when evaluating a site’s search ranking, including responsive designs, mobile designs and dynamic serving designs.
Google has provided a free tool that allows website owners to determine if a website’s ranking is likely to suffer after the new algorithm is implemented. The tool will display a simple success message if the website is already optimized for mobile users. If not, it will provide a failure message and suggest changes that should be made to the website.
Text that is too small to read with a mobile device is a common problem with sites that aren’t mobile ready. Additional problems include links that are too close together and a mobile view port that isn’t set. A website’s results may contain a lengthy list of errors, but many of them can be fixed just by migrating to a content management system that’s optimized for mobile content.
Responsive design uses one website for all viewing devices. The website contains code that detects the user’s device and produces a display that is optimized for that device. This approach is Google’s preferred method when determining a website’s search ranking. The primary advantage of responsive design is that is doesn’t require users to select different URLs based on their current device.
A second approach to dealing with Google’s new search algorithm is to design a second website that’s optimized for mobile devices. The user initially arrives at the main URL, which redirects the user to the mobile website if it detects a mobile device. This method is the traditional approach to dealing with multiple viewing devices, but it requires the site owner to maintain two versions of the same website.
A dynamic serving design uses an agent to determine the viewing device and provide the appropriate display dynamically. This approach involves changing the site’s HTML code, which remains static in responsive design. The main disadvantage of a dynamic serving design is that it’s more prone to errors than responsive design.
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