Google Shifts Search Results Toward Mobile

Mobility

Sites that don’t pass Google’s criteria for ‘mobile-friendliness’ should expect to see search traffic drop, the company said

Google has changed its search technology to favour mobile-friendly web pages in a move it said is expected to have a “significant impact” on the results users see.

The move was announced in February, but many major websites still feature home pages that fail Google’s “mobile friendliness” test. Such sites are expected to see a drop in traffic that arrives via Google’s search engine.

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Many websites rely heavily on Google’s search results to draw traffic, particularly in Europe, where Google controls about 90 percent of search traffic, according to StatCounter. In the US that figure is lower, with Microsoft’s Bing and Yahoo accounting for about 30 percent of searches.

“We will be expanding our use of mobile-friendliness as a ranking signal,” Google said in a blog post announcing the change to webmasters. “This change will affect mobile searches in all languages worldwide and will have a significant impact in our search results.” The change is scheduled to take effect on Tuesday.

Google said the shift is intended to reflect the growing proportion of searches that originate from mobile devices such as smartphones and tablets.

“As people increasingly search on their mobile devices, we want to make sure they can find content that’s not only relevant and timely, but also easy to read and interact with on smaller mobile screens,” Google said in a statement.

The change is expected to have a wider-reaching impact than the two previous algorithm updates, Panda and Penguin, which respectively affected 12 percent and more than 3 percent of search results. In general Google doesn’t announce changes to its search procedures.

‘Mobile-friendliness’

Major websites that don’t pass Google’s critera for “mobile-friendliness” include the home page of Mail Online, the largest English-language news site, as well as the front pages of the BBC and the European Union and sections of Wikipedia. The BBC does redirect mobile users to a dedicated homepage, however, while The Mail doesn’t currently offer a mobile site.

Google offered tools webmasters can use to assess their sites in February.

Research by eMarketer suggests that this year UK adults will spend more time on mobile devices than desktop computers, and Google said an estimated 50 percent of searches now originate from mobile devices.

The EU last week laid the ground for formal antitrust charges against Google, alleging that the company has abused its dominant search position.

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