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Why Google Changed the mSEO Rank and How to Take Advantage

On April 21st Google is expanding its SEO algorithms to place higher ranks to sites deemed “Mobile-Friendly” for users originating from mobile or tablet devices. The update is in response to increasing traffic growth (about half of all search traffic) from mobile devices.

Some have argued this change will have a bigger impact than other updates like Panda (estimated maximum impact of 12% of searches) or Penguin (4%). There are even rumors of a project at Google dedicated to building a completely separate mobile index from its desktop index.

At Yottaa, we’re excited to see Google provide better mobile search experiences to users, as well as encourage content publishers to deliver the richest and best mobile online experiences for their users. But with the new algorithm release, owners need to ensure they’re ready to embrace the change to not get negatively impacted on their ranking.

How the Update Works

The new algorithm will use the Googlebot to access and rank the page.  This means regardless what the site looks like to the average user, the mobile-friendliness ranking will be based on the results of what the Googlebot sees.  Most importantly, website owners should make sure that the site is not blocking robots.txt, the resource that’s required to render the page, images, CSS and javascript files to crawl the site.

The change leads to some important questions for owners:

  • Is your mobile site optimized for both human users and for Googlebot? It is important to make sure you’re solving for both.
  • Does Google consider the site “Mobile-Friendly”?  Luckily, Google made the a “Mobile-Friendly Test” to give a binary reaction – ie. “yes” or “no” – to offer insight on a URL by URL basis.
  • If you’ve already devoted resources to improving a mobile site, how does Google take this into account for the ranking? Gary Illyes mentioned at SXM West that Responsive Web Design does not carry Mobile Ranking weight, however, Google recommends it as best practice to implement RWD in order to deliver an optimal experience for real users.
  • Are you ready to scale resources (if there are any dedicated specifically to mobile) to account for an increase in Googlebots hitting your mobile sites? Excessive bot traffic can hinder site performance and impact human visitors’ experience on your site.

Even if you’re looking to optimize your mobile site for Google’s new mobile rank, it’s still a good idea to optimize for site performance. Content providers who optimize for speed have been proven to garner better engagement and conversions as a result of delivering an optimal user experience to their human visitors.  After all, your site should deliver an amazing experience for your users already, and in doing so, your site should see a better ranking from Google. Both are required, and at Yottaa, we’ve been hard at work delivering a product that can solve for both use cases.

Yottaa’s Response: Mobile Search Profile Update

Yottaa’s ContextIntelligence engine continuously optimizes web applications by analyzing the client requests and responding with transformations based on configurable profiles for Desktop, Mobile and Search traffic. These profiles can be created and customized using any available layer 4-7 OSI metadata, and typically include information about the end user’s region, user agent (form factor, device and browser), and network connectivity.

Yottaa is committed to delivering optimized and secure user experiences, and to maximize business value for our customers. So with this mobile-friendly update, we realized it was imperative to provide an automated solution that would be configured for the change on 4/21. Based on the architecture of the ContextIntelligence engine, we were able to quickly tune the inputs that come into the engine to specify a segmented profile for mobile search bot traffic in addition to desktop.

The update allows the bot-aware ContextIntelligence engine to deliver an optimized HTML page from cache, utilizing mobile CSS and specific image transformations, to ensure Google’s mSEO bots receive a page with the best possible mobile performance.  These are especially important for sites that use Adaptive Web Design because Yottaa caches and enables adaptive mobile content differently than the desktop equivalent, therefore, Yottaa is able to serve and optimize different content profiles for mobile or desktop.

You might be thinking that this is gaming the system by tricking the search engine bot. In fact, Yottaa is fixing the configuration shortcomings of most CMS and eCommerce platform implementations by providing more granular and appropriate profile support to differentiate between desktop and mobile content. Additionally, the profiles are intelligent enough to recognize when a search bot may be consuming excessive resources and throttle the traffic in order to not degrade a current real user’s on-site experience.

What’s next?

First, run your site through Google’s “Mobile-Friendly” site tester.

If you’re not Mobile-Friendly – Google has made it clear it will penalize sites that are underinvested in mobile. It may be time to start revising or developing your mobile strategy if you don’t have one already. At the least, make sure that you’ve taken care of the basics: Remove all Flash content, set your viewport metatags, make sure your font size is readable without zooming, and optimize for space between “tap-target” URLs.

If you are Mobile-Friendly – Congrats! Continue to configure your site to make sure you’re ready for the change on April 21. If you’re a Yottaa customer, take some of these suggestions we mentioned above and implement them into your mobile search bot profile to make sure you’re getting the most out of the Yottaa solution.



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