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Google Changing Mobile Search Rankings: Tips to Avoid the Hammer Drop

Google changes mobile page rank - drops the hammer

Google’s recent announcement in support of optimized web experiences for mobile users has been garnering a lot of attention. The large and growing market of devoted smartphone and tablet users sees this as a positive tack for the search giant and the mobile web performance community at large, and we are excited to see Google nudging content providers toward providing their end users with the richest, most fulfilling online experience possible.

In general terms, Google?s announcement is saying:

  • Mobile comprises a significant part of web traffic
  • Web performance optimization is critical to end user experience
  • End users demand a device-specific and complete mobile browsing experience

Google has spoken

Let’s look at a few of Google?s recommendations and how you can ensure that your sites are not negatively impacting your users now, and won?t be impacted further once this change (which does not yet have an official implementation date) takes effect.

Don?t block Googlebot

Every webmaster knows that bot traffic can be both good and bad. Google reminds us that we want Googlebot crawling page assets (CSS, JavaScript, and images) because full access to these files helps Google?s algorithms detect your site’s configuration and treat it appropriately.

Redirect Correctly

Use HTTP redirects to send clients to device-specific URLs based on the HTTP request header?s user-agent identification. Note ? in this case it does not matter if the server redirects with an HTTP 301 or a 302 status code (but it could in other cases). But beware: faulty or generic redirects will cost you. Many sites have dedicated mobile-optimized landing pages but redirect mobile traffic to irrelevant URLs, for example redirecting mobile users to the mobile-optimized homepage no matter what link is clicked.

Eliminate 404s and errors loading content

You may be mistakenly serving a valid URL to desktop users while showing an error page to mobile users. In some cases the problem is less severe, but Google will penalize you for serving mobile users content, like Flash, that cannot load on the device too.

Optimize your web assets for performance

Web performance optimization (WPO) is important, but it?s not enough to only your desktop site. Optimizing a page’s loading time on smartphones is particularly important given the characteristics of mobile data networks – ever try to use your smartphone in NYC or Portland? Google recommends setting the end page load bar for your mobile site at one second (note, for desktop sites, four seconds is considered average, so you may have some work to do).

Find answers fast

Yottaa has published a number of educational materials that can help you to understand and adapt your web applications to provide visitors an unparalleled user experience. Here are some simple, free ? who doesn?t love free? ? steps you can take today.

1. Measure the bar

As we noted, Google wants mobile page load time to be one second or less. So the first step in optimizing your mobile website is to understand your current performance, and there are a number of free performance assessment tools that do just that. These tools show you:

  1. How fast your site loads across the country and around the world so you know what your users are experiencing. You may be surprised by the results, especially if you haven?t performed a multivariate test of your site before, and you?ll know more about the locales that need the most attention.
  2. How complex your site is in terms of images, JavaScript, third party plug-ins, etc. and a relative scale of how each asset impacts user experience.
  3. How your performance compares to other sites on the web. Mobile site Time to Interact (overall page load time) performance at or below one second is a good goal to set, but for practical purposes, it can help to understand how you compare to real world results so you can set meaningful goals for your organization.

2. Create a plan

Website testing solutions enable you to perform powerful multivariate tests to simulate and evaluate real-world use of your websites. They expand upon the information you gleaned from the performance assessment by:

  1. Highlighting the browsers, geographies and last mile network conditions that need attention. Targeting the usage profiles of existing customers, and of market segments or geographies where you?ve focused your business development activities is a good way to prioritize.
  2. Providing a waterfall visualization of all page assets and highlighting where to focus your efforts. The waterfall is an intuitive, color-coded map of every request and asset required by the page you’re testing. Use the information from assessment together with Google?s advice and take the actions that will make the greatest overall impact.
  3. Showing you what your users see. In addition to the granular asset performance waterfall, some tools present you with a filmstrip of screen capture images so you understand how a user is presented with the content on your page. Sometimes a picture is worth a thousand keystrokes.

3. Maintain your performance

Once you’ve begun to optimize your website, you’ll want to continue to improve and not risk performance degrading or errors increasing over time. One of the best-known methods for keeping your site relevant and high-ranking in search engine results is to serve interesting, dynamic content. 24×7 monitoring and issue determination will allow you to stay on top of performance as your site evolves.

TNSTAAFL? or is there?

Yottaa provides a number of free tools to help, and you can sign up without obligation and give us a week to show you how Yottaa can optimize your web applications without changes to your code or infrastructure. Site Optimizer takes the tactics above, including traffic management and analytics to separate good and bad bots, and applies powerful automation and adaptive intelligence to them ? we do the reasoning and heavy lifting for you and deliver a better end user experience automatically. Depending on Google?s timing to implement these changes, it could be the best money you never spent.


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