Beyond Google’s Mobile-Friendly Algorithm

Published on Author Eli Fennell


How did it get so late so soon? Its night before its afternoon. December is here before its June. My goodness how the time has flewn. How did it get so late so soon? – Dr. Seuss

Tomorrow, the world of Mobile SEO changes forever as Google rolls out a new, mobile-friendly algorithm for mobile Web Search. That this was coming should have surprised no one. The numbers are long since in and the mobile ‘Fad’ is here to stay.

Millions of sites are expected to take a hit, one which if we’re honest many will notice without ever understanding the source. If they weren’t getting it before tomorrow, there is a good chance they never will. Millions of websites thrown up over the years by business and individuals have sat neglected, their codes lingering in a bygone era.

I say good riddance, and make no mistake that the majority of users will feel the same way. However ‘relevant’ a Search result may be, it does little good if it looks like the product of a first semester web design major when viewed on the small screen. The vacuum created by the demise of these web dinosaurs, and the services powering their undead web corpses, will open room for more nimble and ‘evolved’ players. Niches once dominated will again be open field for competition.

Behind failing to bring your site up to at least basic mobile support, the worst thing anyone can do in response to this is treat it as another ‘One and Done’ upgrade. The new algorithms for mobile friendliness are in themselves going to be dramatic, affecting far more Search results than Panda or Penguin, but the sites affected by this aren’t just victims of the smartphone era: they’re canaries in a coal mine whose demise signals something far worse (or better, depending on your view).

In The End of Apps as We Know Them, Author and Designer Golden Krishna posits that,

“In a world of many different screens and devices, content needs to be broken down into atomic units so that it can work agnostic of the screen size or technology platform. For example, Facebook is not a website or an app. It is an eco-system of objects (people, photos, videos, comments, businesses, brands, etc.) that are aggregated in many different ways through people’s newsfeeds, timelines and pages, and delivered to a range of devices, some of which haven’t even been invented yet. So Facebook is not a set of webpages, or screens in an app. It’s a system of objects, and relationships between them.”

David Amerland, Author of Google Semantic Search, lays out how Google, in similar fashion, likes to treat the data from their web crawlers as a system of entities, objects, and relationships between them. Microdata formats like, Knowledge Bases like Wikipedia and DMOZ, and even your Google(+) Identity (i.e. your Google account profile, social activity and connections, etc…) helps their Search algorithms understand, organize, and display web content.

Google’s own Mission Statement says that their goal is, “[T]o organize the world’s information and make it universally accessible and useful.” Note the emphasis on universal accessibility and usefuless. Mobile friendliness is one step in that direction, but only the first. Smart web developers and SEO’s should assume that the ultimate goal is a Universal Responsivenes Algorithm. This will depend not only on Responsive Design, but on the ability for vital information and content to be surfaced on every device and service with an interface capable of delivering it, whether in the form of a Smartwatch Notification, a Yelp listing, a Google My Business Page, a Voice-First Interface like Amazon Echo’s Alexa or Apple’s Siri, a Google Now Card, or even some new type of device or service that doesn’t exist yet.

So by all means, do get your site looking good and running smoothly on smartphones and tablets. You should have done this a long time ago if you haven’t already. Don’t fall in love, however, with what is only the latest way people access the web without forgetting why you built your website in the first place: to make your information and/or content instantly accessible and easily discoverable on the devices and services they’re using.

As it is impossible to know which ones they’ll use in the future, focus first on the accessibility, consistency, and usefulness of the information and content you wish to communicate, regardless of which devices or services people use to find you.