Google announces search algorithm overhaul to favour mobile-friendly sites

Google is making major changes to its search algorithms which will favour websites that are mobile-friendly – in other words, those that function well and appear neatly for the increasing amount of surfers on a smartphone.

Google announced the change on a Webmaster Central blog post (spotted by the Beeb). The company noted that as more folks use mobiles to access the internet, it needed to adapt its algorithms to these usage patterns, and to that end, it was implementing two major changes.

The first of which goes live today, with Google placing increased importance on mobile-friendliness as a ranking signal when it comes to returning search results.

Google said: “This change will affect mobile searches in all languages worldwide and will have a significant impact in our search results. Consequently, users will find it easier to get relevant, high quality search results that are optimised for their devices.”

Want to know how mobile-friendly your site is? Then Google has a guide and tools to help you see how your website fares in terms of rankings – the BBC did note, however, that some of its sites failed the Mobile Friendly Test developer tool.

In short, optimising for mobile is no longer a choice – it’s a necessity.

The second change, also going live today, concerns returning relevant app content in search results. Google said: “We will begin to use information from indexed apps as a factor in ranking for signed-in users who have the app installed.” Content from those apps may then feature more prominently in returned search results.

Google also recently tidied up the way URLs appear in search results on mobile devices, with the company clearly focusing more and more on mobile these days.

Steve Rivers, CEO of Intelligent Reach comments: “Data from the Intelligent Reach platform shows that sales via mobile devices are booming, with mobile browsing exceeding traditional browsing across retail for the first time earlier this year; indicating changing behaviour of online shoppers. It’s for precisely this reason that Google’s updated its algorithm.

"Retailers must be aware of the switch and optimise their websites to accommodate mobile users. Unresponsive websites would have been losing sales for some time, but the algorithm change will now drive more shoppers away or, even worse, mean that websites won’t even appear on mobile searches – both situations which would lead to a significant loss of virtual footfall.

"Google’s algorithm change is a positive response to consumer needs, but as technology continues to evolve, retailers need to stay ahead of the curve and provide a seamless experience across all devices.”