June 13, 2013

Google's SEO Battle far From Over: The Giant Targets Websites Poorly Optimized for Smartphone Use

If you thought Google had already done enough to raise your blood pressure with its Penguin 2.0 algorithm change… think again. This week, the search engine giant announced that it is not quite finished in its quest for superb websites boasting top-notch quality.

Google recently announced plans to introduce even more algorithm changes designed to penalize websites that are not optimized for smartphone screens. While many companies have gone to great lengths to optimize their sites for iPhone, Droid and BlackBerry use, a large enough number of others have not taken the necessary steps—thus fueling Google’s recent decision to target these sites.

“To improve the search experience for smartphone users and address their pain points, we plan to roll out several ranking changes in the near future that address sites that are misconfigured for smartphone users,” Google’s Software Engineer Yoshikiyo Kato explains in the company’s latest Webmaster Central Blog. 

With the surge in mobility in recent years, it is perhaps not all that surprising that the search engine mogul is trying to help a consumer out. After all, 80 percent of the world’s population has now gone mobile, as evidenced by the fact that there are five billion mobile phones throughout the world. Some other chief findings, according to a Go-Globe infographic, include the fact that:

  • There are 91.4 million smartphones in the US alone
  • Android had 46.9 percent of the smartphone market share in 2011, followed by iPhone at 28.7 percent
  • 80 percent of smarpthone users use their phones routinely throughout the day
  • 84 percent of smartphone users rely on their devices for Internet browsing

It’s perhaps that 84 percent that Google is going after.

As Kato explains, since smartphone ubiquity will only continue, and smartphone users make up a rapidly growing segment of Internet users, Google is leading the charge to enrich the mobile user’s online experience. Accordingly, the company has produced a set of recommendations and delineated the most common configuration mistakes to give marketers the best chance possible at not becoming the latest causality of a Google update.

From the mouths of Google, the two most egregious mistakes programmers can make when setting up their websites are producing faulty redirects—when a desktop page redirects smartphone users to an irrelevant page on the smartphone-optimized website—and smartphone-only errors, or when mobile users receive an error page on their device. Some of the most common smartphone-only errors include: unplayable videos on mobile devices, incorrectly handling Googlebot-Mobile, and not producing content in a smartphone-friendly format.

For marketers, this is yet another blow Google has delivered in its quest for SEO upheaval. In fact, many companies have already seen their websites take a huge hit in rankings thanks to the recently introduced Penguin 2.0 update—a change that not only affected 2.3% of English search queries but also reportedly incorrectly ranked UK spam sites on a higher page than reputable websites.

It appears Google’s quest to find original copy and well-strategized websites is far from over. Check back at Content Boost routinely for more on the SEO war.

Edited by Justin Reynolds

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