Marketers have until April 21st to get their sites mobile-friendly (sort of). At SMX West, Google’s Gary Illyes confirmed the upcoming roll out of a global mobile UX algorithm, and he hinted the impact will be huge. The algorithm will run page by page, in real time so any marketers who “miss the deadline” can redeem their sites with fast action.

Still, this new algorithm must serve as a wake-up call for 91 percent of business sites that are not mobile optimized. Illyes and the panelists shared exclusive insights on the upcoming mobile UX algorithm, and best practices for mobile SEO.

What constitutes mobile-friendly?

According to Illyes, Google evaluates mobile content according to:

  • Availability
  • Legibility
  • Usability

Additionally, to get that coveted “mobile-friendly” label in SERPs, sites cannot have blocked access to CSS and JavaScript. Marketers MUST unblock access to be considered mobile-friendly.

What’s better: sites or responsiveness?

Bryson Meunier, SEO Director of Vivid Seats argued heavily for responsive, while other members of the panel argued for sites. The issue, according to advocates is that building a separate mobile site creates more room for error. In order for a site to earn benefits, it has to be done RIGHT.

Illyes said there is no difference in Google’s (robot) mind at this time. He advocates responsive if that’s good for users and simpler for marketers.

What constitutes a “mobile” search experience?
Any internet-enabled device users can carry, except a laptop computer, is a mobile device.

What’s the difference in assessing mobile (phone) sites and tablet sites?
“There is no specific different treatment for tablet experiences at this time,” said Illyes.

What’s the impact of the mobile UX algo? As significant as Panda, or smaller – like SSL?
Illyes would not respond to this. He joked that this will have a “42 percent impact!” but gave no real insight. However, he subtly hinted at the weight of the algorithm, saying “April 21st will be an important day. Mark it.”

How quickly will the mobile UX algo roll out worldwide?
The algorithm will have a global roll out, for all languages, on April 21st.

“All we (at Google) want from you is for you to focus on your user.” – Illyes

What if a developer team misses the deadline?
This algorithm will run frequently (Illyes suggested it will detect changes in real time). And it will operate page-by-page as opposed to site-wide. Panelists all encouraged marketers who don’t already have mobile (responsive) sites to pick their priority pages according to revenue and start optimizing from there.

What’s the best strategy to rank in mobile search?
Illyes gave the answer we can all expect from Google: “All we (at Google) want from you is for you to focus on your user.” At least he admitted it’s becoming cliche, “but true.”


For more on how to optimize for the user experience with content and web design, check out these related resources:

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