Google is now penalizing websites that are not mobile responsive

It’s not your imagination. Google’s results have changed, and Google has officially confirmed that this is due to a change with how it assesses content quality. Early April, some publishers began noticing changes to Google’s search results. Google was asked if this due to a Panda Update or any other type of update, but Google replied no. Since then, more reports came in, with the change even being dubbed the Phantom Update because something did seem to have happened, even if Google wasn’t acknowledging it. Now Google has. The company said that while no spam-related update had happened, there were changes to its core ranking algorithm in terms of how it processes quality signals. Since it has been confirmed, it has now been dubbed the Quality Update. The companies that are most effected are those whose websites are not mobile friendly.  Their new Google algorithm, aimed at significantly changing the mobile search results to give preference to mobile ready web sites over non-mobile ready web sites. While there was an increase in mobile friendly sites just after this update, there are still many unwilling to join in with the change. There are three things we should remember about the shift to mobile friend searches:

1. Businesses Lost Search Traffic as a Result of not being Mobile Friendly

A new (to the U.S., at least) development resulting from the mobile friendly update is that, for certain queries, listings rank higher in smartphone search than they do in desktop search simply because the site that previously ranked higher is not mobile friendly. In other words, if your site is not mobile friendly you are ranked lower in search results, ultimately losing traffic and business.

2. Mobile Rankings have never been more Different from Desktop Rankings than they are Right Now

Consider this: Back in 2011, one of the most popular and well-known SEOs in the world, Rand Fishkin, was not optimistic about the future of mobile SEO, predicting instead that mobile search rankings and desktop search rankings would converge, eliminating the need for a mobile website. In fact, it has actually played out in the exact opposite way, with search results and queries diverging — not converging — over time. Even with smartphones having the ability to access content that computers can, search engines have optimized the search results for desktops and smartphones, and what we’re left with is smartphone search results that aren’t the same as what you’d see on a desktop or laptop. This started well before the mobile friendly update. Search Engine Land listed differences between mobile and desktop search results over the years, and in 2013, Google announced that they would start ranking pages with mobile site configuration errors lower in smartphone search results. In June 2014, Bright Edge reported that mobile search results were 62 percent different than desktop results. SEO Clarity reported that this number was 67 percent prior to April 21 and climbed to as high as 73.1 percent following the mobile update. It has since stabilized a bit, with the last reported number at 69 percent, but it’s clear the mobile friendly update has only increased the already big difference between smartphone and desktop rankings.

3. It Will Only get Worse for those not Optimized for Multiple Screens

And the genie is not going back in the bottle. If you’re hoping that Google will abandon their mobile-friendly algorithm, never say never, but it is unlikely to happen anytime soon. Mobilegeddon, is really just beginning. Google has more of an incentive to continue to update search results for mobile searchers, as they recently announced that there are officially more smartphone than desktop searches in the U.S. As long as searchers continue to use their smartphones to search, and they are in growing numbers, Google will prioritize those searchers and attempt to give them the best experience. This means that Google will continue to tweak their mobile-friendly algorithm over time, adding factors as they see it helps the mobile searcher. So keep improving your sites for mobile searchers and don’t use the underwhelming mobile update as an excuse not to. If you’re not yet mobile-friendly, make it happen. And if you are mobile-friendly, prepare for the next update — because in this new era of SEO, it’s no longer possible to ignore mobile searchers and mobile sites and compete with those who don’t.