Uncharacteristically for Google, two months ago a planned update to the company’s search algorithm was announced — one, referred to as “Mobilegeddon” by some, that will give priority ranking in search results to websites designed with smartphone users in mind.
The Google Mobile-Friendly algorithm will officially begin to roll-out tomorrow, April 21st; websites that Google deems “mobile-friendly” will be (if they aren’t already) labeled as such within mobile search results pages (as illustrated below).
Aside from the label, Google has confirmed that this algorithm update will indeed have an impact on rankings — although, nobody can really be sure just how much ranking (and, with it, traffic) will be affected by the change. Given how much of my own traffic I see from mobile (which I highlighted a few months ago), I can only imagine how larger publishers will potentially be impacted.
Though Google has given webmasters a few months lead time, it’s probable that not everyone has either been made aware of this update, or done anything to the sites they manage to prepare for the algorithm change. If you want to check your site to see if Google considers it “mobile-friendly”, there’s a handy mobile test page located here. You can also do a search for your own site on a smartphone (as I’ve done above) to see if a “mobile-friendly” tag has been applied.
For WordPress-based sites, the company’s Jetpack plugin (which is free) offers easily-enabled mobile themes that do meet Google’s mobile-friendly test. Though these plugins will make your mobile site look different from the desktop version, it will at least meet Google’s requirement for now, thereby saving you from losing ranking until you’re able to get a responsive version of your website made.
Note, this mobile-friendly algorithm update will not affect ranking on desktop searches, nor will it have an impact on tablet-based traffic. Search Engine Land has also been able to confirm that the algorithm will run in real-time, on a page-by-page basis — so, if a few pages of your site aren’t mobile-friendly, while the rest are, you may experience traffic variations for each.