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I have heard that Google will boost mobile-friendly websites in search results. My website is not mobile-friendly.

Will my website penalised in the Google search results if I have not made the website mobile friendly before April 21st?

  • 4
    Kuddos to the way that Google is handling this ranking change. They have been sending out notices via webmaster tools for a couple months when sites are deemed not mobile friendly. I appreciate the heads up a LOT. Especially because Google thinks users to have much fatter finger than I designed for. Most of my sites have "click targets too close together." – Stephen Ostermiller Mar 2 '15 at 15:20
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The important thing to know is that (as stated here) the change only applies to mobile searches:

This change will affect mobile searches in all languages worldwide and will have a significant impact in our search results.

If you do not have a mobile friendly site, your ranking on desktop Google searches should not be affected.

Google may not class it as a "penalty", but yes the effect is the same. In mobile searches, mobile-friendly sites will rise up the ranks, meaning that non-friendly sites will by definition be placed lower.

  • As it should be. Sites that are not mobile friendly may not view well or at all. – Rob Mar 4 '15 at 14:54
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Panic not!

From: http://googlewebmastercentral.blogspot.com/2015/02/finding-more-mobile-friendly-search.html

Starting April 21, we will be expanding our use of mobile-friendliness as a ranking signal.

[Update] Please note: John Mueller has just told us that this only effects searches made by mobile users. To quote:

Just to be clear about the effects: sites that are mobile-friendly will rank higher, sites that aren't mobile-friendly will rank lower, in smartphone search results, after this change. Also, if your site isn't mobile-friendly, keep in mind that smartphone web usage is not slightly growing - it's exploding.

Thanks John! This is very valuable information. I appreciate your input on this.

Mobile friendly sites have enjoyed a bit of a ranking boost for quite some time being that mobile friendliness has been one of the factors. However, this announcement just means that the metric for such will be a bit stronger. Nothing more.

This should effect SERP placement and not site rank- meaning that sites that are more mobile friendly will be selected for higher SERP placement than less mobile friendly sites. There is no penalty.

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    I view it as a penalty, but only within the results for mobile users. – Stephen Ostermiller Mar 2 '15 at 15:29
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    @StephenOstermiller A penalty is a scenario where your metrics are dropped for a reason (bad reason) and not where others are boosted for a reason (good reason). This is a case where the boost for a factor Google feels is good for the user is turned up a knotch. So what? That is the right thing to do these days (sorta- see below). Just in the last year, I am getting soooooooooo many tablet and cell phone users now that it is nearly half. It might be better if Google did this for mobile users of their site and not desktop users. That makes better sense to me. – closetnoc Mar 2 '15 at 15:36
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    Just to be clear about the effects: sites that are mobile-friendly will rank higher, sites that aren't mobile-friendly will rank lower, in smartphone search results, after this change. Also, if your site isn't mobile-friendly, keep in mind that smartphone web usage is not slightly growing - it's exploding. – John Mueller Mar 3 '15 at 9:21
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    @closetnoc yes, only for users on smartphones. – John Mueller Mar 4 '15 at 23:33
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    I 100% agree with w3d. This will not only penalise websites but users as well. Google is about content, you want to find something and Google finds it for you. I use mobile devices a lot and it only takes three seconds to use one of my many smartphone features to read an article on a non-mobile friendly website in a clean way. Yet now it seems that to find just what I'm looking for I will have to go all the way down to page 3 or maybe 5 or maybe 12. Also a very valid point that results will now be different across platforms. It would make sense if it's the user who opts in for such a feature. – WPRookie82 Mar 19 '15 at 13:10
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Google announced that they will start penalizing pages that are not mobile friendly in the mobile search results:

Starting April 21, we will be expanding our use of mobile-friendliness as a ranking signal. 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 optimized for their devices.

Google filled in some additional details about the way this will work at SMX West:

  • It is a page level penalty not a site level penalty. Only pages that are not mobile friendly will have trouble ranking in the mobile SERPs. Any parts of the site that are mobile friendly will be unaffected.
  • Is is a real-time algorithm. If you change a page to be mobile-friendly, Google will pick up on it and stop penalizing it the next time it is crawled.

Googlbot needs to crawl CSS and JS

It is important to allow Googlebot to crawl your CSS and JavaScript so that it can evaluate your pages as your users see them. In some cases Google is reporting that pages are not mobile friendly when they actually are, just because Googlebot sees an ugly version of the page without any styles applied.

Google has been asking for years, that you allow Googlebot to crawl your CSS and JS:

If resources like JavaScript or CSS in separate files are blocked (say, with robots.txt) so that Googlebot can’t retrieve them, our indexing systems won’t be able to see your site like an average user. We recommend allowing Googlebot to retrieve JavaScript and CSS so that your content can be indexed better. This is especially important for mobile websites, where external resources like CSS and JavaScript help our algorithms understand that the pages are optimized for mobile.

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Everyone is right that this will only effect traffic from mobile devices.

Google has a tool so you can check what it thinks of your site? https://www.google.com/webmasters/tools/mobile-friendly/

But how will it effect you?
No one really knows until April 21, but to give you an idea what the effect will be I would recommend that you take a look over you analytics and see what portion of your traffic is coming from mobile search. From looking over a range of sites we run this looks to be 12-18% for B2B and 20-30% for B2C for organic mobile search.

There is talk that the update will be a bigger shakeup than Panda. So worst case is that if you are not mobile compliant than all your traffic from mobile search will disappear as you will be so far down the rankings.

So what effect would a 20-30% traffic loss from organic make?
There is no hard and fast rule with this it really does depends on the site. Go do the research and see, my advice if you can make your site compliant before April 21.

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