It’s been a busy day for Google and the world of mobile. The search engine has decided to push this whole “getting users to content on mobile more easily” malarky and so has issued a post over on the official Webmaster Central Blog outlining two new changes.
Mobile Friendly Labels Being Dropped
About two years ago, Google started adding “mobile friendly” labels to the mobile SERPs to help people identify sites that wouldn’t make you squint on a small screen. On April 21st last year, an official algorithm change rolled out that made having a mobile friendly site a positive criteria for organic visibility.
Google now says that about 85% of all the pages that show up in mobile SERPs are mobile friendly anyway, so in the name of keeping things simple they’re going to remove the labelling. Mobile friendliness will still be an important organic visibility factor for Google search, but the SERP label is coming off.
Not to fret – you can (and should) still check your website’s mobile usability in Search Console and using the external testing tool. This is a minor event, all things considered – certainly in comparison to the second announcement.
Ranking Penalty For (Some) Mobile Popups
Having large popups or other interstitials has been a red flag in the mobile UX testing tool for a while now, so inevitably it was going to get rolled into the main algo as a ranking signal. As they did with the original mobile UX update, Google are giving advance notice of this one – you’ve got until 10th January 2017 to clear the intrusive popups and other interstitial nonsense from your website before you get given an organic mobile slap. Note that this effectively replaces the specific signal that was added to penalise mobile sites aggressively pushing their apps on mobile pages – but as a lot of these messages are handled via popups and interstitials anyway the signal will still keep that particular case covered.
Google has also provided more detailed guidance on what is considered an acceptable or unacceptable intrusion into the user journey from SERP to content.
Interestingly there is also a guide to interstitial types that, when used correctly and “responsibly,” will not cause a penalty – things like cookie popups, login screens or small top banners.
Hopefully this list of allowed interstitials will also include functional popups such as region selectors and notifiers, as otherwise a lot of international brands are suddenly going to find themselves in unpleasant organic straits on mobile come January next year. From the looks of things, however, elements that are close to essential for site functionality rather than slapped up for promotional pushes should do fine. Check the Webmaster Central post for the details.
Some top tips for brands looking to get mobile-safe before the deadline:
- Before you slap a popup onto your site, ask what it is for – is it essential or just a promotional push?
- Do your promotional popups or interstitials have to be dismissed before a user can get to the rest of your content?
- How intrusive are your promotional intersitials? If they dominate the entire page and must be actively skipped before your main website is reachable then you’re going to have a problem.
- Wherever possible, avoid the use of popup elements altogether – most users don’t like them much and find them annoying, which should be a bigger incentive for you than anything Google says!
- Note (as of this update via Twitter) that any penalties you gain for intrusive popups etc will be allocated on a page by page basis, so your whole site won’t get a slap. However, as most brands have their popups/interstitials either sitewide or on their homepage, this is still a potentially heavy impact penalty so definitely nothing to sneeze at.
With these quite big SERP and algorithm changes it can be easy to miss the third mobile-themed news item I spotted this morning…
Google Outlines A Start On AMP For Ecommerce
Yep, as 4Ps has been predicting in our internal Waffle Wednesday meetings for a few months now, Google is making strong moves (with the help of trailblazers eBay) to endorse the use of Accelerated Mobile Pages for eCommerce websites on the official AMP Project blog.
Originally developed in conjunction with global publishers such as Buzzfeed, the BBC and the Washington Post, AMP was built with a strong focus to “readable” articles and similar content which is commonly consumed on mobile. Removing the “frustration factor” from reading web content on mobile was a big driver for the project, so this was the logical first step.
At this year’s Google I/O Richard Gingras confirmed that AMP was seeing good adoption rates amongst mainstream publishers and that the project was going to be expanding to new verticals, including web pages containing recipes. At 4Ps we’ve been suggesting that any of our client brands who act as publishers – even if all they have is a blog – enable AMP for their posts. The 4Ps blog itself is now AMP enabled (you can see the AMP version of this post here, for example).
Initially AMP results were only showing in the news carousel “top stories” on mobile, as below, but then in early August this year Google Webmaster Central announced that AMP would be making its way into the general SERPs. Of course this may be another reason why the mobile-friendly label is being removed – to make room for the AMP one!
So what does this mean for all those retail brands out there?
- AMP for eCommerce is still in the experimental stages (eBay are doing a lot here) but it is definitely something on the roadmap to watch – or, if you’re the savvy-development type, you can join in with the GitHub repository!
- If you’re wary of early adoption for the as yet not-fully-proven AMP for eCommerce, you can still start to AMP-enable other parts of your brand presence such as your blog or other content areas
- If you aren’t sure about this AMP business at all, there’s no need to go nuts right away – try just creating AMP versions of a couple of your most popular blog posts for mobile traffic and see how it affects your engagement statistics before worrying about a full rollout
- Remember AMP itself isn’t (yet) a positive ranking signal for Google – but it does make for truly awesome page speeds which means it is a great experience for users
- Don’t forget analytics – AMP needs a special analytics implementation and not all vendors support it yet (although Google Analytics, needless to say, is all over it – but still needs particular tracking code)
Oh, and if you’re a regular publisher or perhaps a recipe site and haven’t even given AMP a try yet…what in the world are you waiting for?
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