Google Mobile Search Rank Drops for Non-Mobile Websites

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Categories: Search Engine Optimization

Google Mobile Search RankWhere will your website rank on mobile after the next few months?

Google announced in a blog post this week that in the very near future websites that are not properly optimized for mobile devices will see a drop in their mobile search results ranking. Currently, with all else being equal, websites that rank well for a keyword will receive the same relative SERP (search engine results page) position on desktop and on mobile. If you rank #1 for “Waikiki condo listings” for searches performed on a desktop you’ll find the same #1 result on a smartphone or tablet. In the next few months however, that will change if your website is not properly mobile optimized.

Properly is the key here. Instead of focusing on websites that are not mobile optimized at all, this particular change in the Google algorithm will target websites that have “attempted” to optimize for the mobile experience but in the process have made configuration mistakes.  This article will detail the mistakes made on supposedly mobile-device optimized websites and explain how to avoid them.

Keep Your Google Mobile Search Rank By Avoiding These 6 Mobile Optimization Mistakes:

1. Defective Redirects

A common problem with sites that are assumed to be optimized occurs when all or any of the pages on a desktop version of a website redirects mobile users to only the homepage of the mobile optimized website. Using Oahu real estate as an example, let’s say a mobile user searched “condos in Waikiki” and was delivered a search result for “condos in Waikiki” page but when they clicked the link they were redirected to the Oahu real estate homepage. This common redirect error ticks users off which puts Google on alert to target those delivering a poor mobile experience. Be sure that every page on your desktop version redirects users to the twin mobile version. If there is no twin mobile version of the webpage it is far better to deliver the old desktop version.

2. Delivering 404s

Atlanta Georgia must hate what the internet has done to their beloved area code because “404” is the dirtiest word in SEO. If a user is visiting a desktop webpage from their mobile device and you have a mobile twin version of that page be sure that they are directed to that mobile twin and not incorrectly configured to deliver a 404 error page in any way, shape, or form.  A 404 will send users packing to your competition and Google will put your search rank in the corner for detention. Once again, if you don’t have a mobile-friendly version of a particular page then serve-up the desktop version.

3. App Interstitials

What’s an interstitial you ask? An interstitial is basically a sophisticated banner that appears on a mobile screen (w/a close button option) before loading the intended page and is often used on mobile URLs to promote a website’s app – a natural thing to do for those that want to encourage users to check out their app when they’ve arrived at their mobile site. However these interstitials often cause indexing problems or simply hurt the user’s mobile experience which will again cause Google to kick you to the curb in the months ahead. If you want to promote your app from your mobile website then do so with a simply banner that is visible on your mobile page as opposed to the all encompassing interstitial.

4. Cross Linking

Be mindful of the internal links on your website when you have a mobile version as well. A very common configuration mistake made by developers is to neglect the internal links found on various pages, sending mobile users to desktop versions of a page when a perfectly good mobile version does indeed exist, or vice versa.

5. Page Speed

People are spending more time on mobile because the demands and habits of their daily lives operate on overdrive. They may have time to load a slow web page at the home or office (desktop) but on mobile they want fast delivery or they’ll abandon the visit. Test your website using Google’s Page Speed Insights tool and make sure your developer follows these mobile speed guidelines.

6. Unwatchable Video

I wish Google considered the endless gauntlet of viral dance, cat, or dancing cat videos to be considered as “unwatchable video” and a target for a drop in Google mobile search rank. However, this item focuses on the fact that far too many supposedly mobile optimized websites cannot correctly play the video format that the landing pages deliver.  Forget about using video content that requires Flash if you ever intend upon delivering a mobile experience while maintaining your search rank. Google recommends using HTML5 standard tags to include videos but at the end of the day do not use video unless you are certain the format will play on all major mobile devices.

Conclusion – This news may be a bit of a bummer for those of you that invested in a “budget version” of a mobile optimized website, thinking that delivering a good enough experience will get you by. While users may indeed bear with the “good enough” version, Google has made it clear that they will NOT by punishing your keyword ranking in mobile search. To avoid this drop in mobile search rank, share this article with your developer or simply contact a website marketing company that specializes in mobile website optimization and let your competition try to get by on “good enough”.

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