Massive Google Update: 16th January 2016

We thought the 9th of January was big, then Google surprised us with the core algorithm update on the 10th, but today… today is something we’ve never seen before. Algoroo is in red again, but now at nearly 4 roos.

algoroo

Today’s update really dwarfs everything else. It’s a Burj Khalifa.

There hasn’t been a day like this recorded since we started tracking Google’s results. I’m going to have to check my data, to make sure this is not some sort of false alarm but from what I can see other trackers such as Mozcast are showing a very hot day indeed.

mozcastCommunity comments

‘Burj Khalifa’ added a few more storeys today. Seems like lots of things combined again to me, but only summising. UK finance and law look to take a wellying yesterday in UK winners and losers, whilst Google.com ironically was one of “biggest losers in France according to SERP Watch.”

Everything To Know About Google Panda Update 4.2

“This past weekend we began a Panda update that will rollout over the coming months,” said a Google spokesperson about Panda. “As you know, we’re always working to improve Google so search results are higher quality and more relevant for everyone and this is just one way we do that.”The latest refresh, which hit the search space almost after ten long months has affected approximately two to three percent of English language queries, as per the official announcement.

They also confirmed the percent of queries that are impacted by Panda this time around.

2-3% of queries affected

Google has confirmed that this refresh affects only 2-3% of search queries, which is lower than the previous refresh of 3-5% in September 2014 and the last true update in May 2014 which affected 7.5% of search queries.

Don’t forget that affected search queries doesn’t mean those queries all saw the loss of pages in those search results from this new refresh. It also includes pages that have made a return to those search results as well.

Haven’t noticed any major changes in your site’s performance in terms of rankings or traffic? Well, that’s because this rollout is happening at a snail’s pace. Yes, we dug out all the forums… tracked the plus and Twitter profiles of all the influencers heavily… kept refreshing the SEO blogs a few times a day, but no news as yet of any direct impact. All we know is that it started over the previous weekend and may well be spread over the next few months. So, if you’re lucky, your site may not see the impact for months. On the flip side, you might just see your page rankings alter within a matter of days.

“Coming months”

What exactly does “coming months” mean? Does it mean two months? Six months? Or is it in limbo right now depending on how fast (or not) they decide to roll it out on any given day or week?

That said, long roll outs are nothing new to Google, and we have seen it in the past. No one should really be surprised that they aren’t hitting the entire refresh out at once, even though there are some pretty vocal about the long length of the rollout.

Hopefully, this is something we will get further clarification on, or at least an announcement of some variety when it has finished rolling out in the “coming months.”

Who could be looser?

1.Websites those are having thin, duplicate and poor quality content

2.Websites those were affected by last panda updates but didn’t recovered

Who could be winner?

1.Website those are having full quality contents, and regular updates.

2.Websites those were affected by last panda updates and they received/changed content.

Google Update – Google Confirms Quality Update

This week, several sources began discussing what appeared to be a significant update to Google’s algorithm, although the search giant hadn’t made an announcement about the change. Now, Google has confirmed that it made an update to its core search algorithm, and that the latest changes are not related to the Panda algorithm update that is expected shortly.

Multiple reports indicate that although Google updates its algorithm often, the update that was made June 17 was more significant than many others, although Google isn’t providing any details and the specifics of the change aren’t yet clear. Some other reports indicate the possibility that this week’s update was instead similar in scope to the almost constant updates that Google makes to its algorithm.

The search giant said to expect additional core search algorithm updates in the future as they continue to work on improving search quality.

“This is not a Panda update,” wrote Google in a statement to Search Engine Land. “As you know, we’re always making improvements to our search algorithms and the Web is constantly evolving. We’re going to continue to work on improvements across the board.”

Google’s Gary Illyes wrote on Twitter that he “can’t comment more on this though, we make hundreds of changes every year, you know the rest.”

One interesting aspect of what has been reported is that many automated tracking tools, such as Mozcast, showed massive spikes this week in terms of changes happening in the Google search results. Initially, Dr. Pete Meyers from the Moz team thought maybe the HTTPS algorithm had been updated and given more weight, but Illyes said on Twitter that this was not the case. One possible reason so many tools showed a spike this week could be related to the number one Google search result, Wikipedia, changing all of its URLs to go HTTPS this week. This changed so many Google search results, which could cause the tools to spike.

Overall, it seems that what is known is that this was not Panda, not HTTPS and also not Penguin. It may instead simply be a normal Google core search update that the company isn’t providing any details on. We’ll be analyzing the situation further as more information becomes available.

It’s all about the quality (as usual!)

In this past update Google changed how they calculate “quality” content. While Google of course won’t disclose the calculation or parameters, it could be a shift in the relative weights of existing parameters. At the end of the day, it’s just another step toward Google’s goal to make life better for the user. Sometimes it may even be at the expense of using Google to generate traffic; some companies who repeatedly get hit hard from these updates are more prone to reallocating budgets to other traffic driving methods.

But it’s important to remember that for Google, it really is all about the user experience. Panda, Penguin, ‘Mobilegeddon,’ PageSpeed, Caffeine, the Knowledge Graph. All of these updates work toward that aim.

Actionable Points To Consider For Google Mobile Friendly Update

As the roll-out of Google’s widely discussed mobile ranking algorithm update on April 21st draws closer, you’re probably either looking forward to a validation of your SEO prowess, or freaking out about how much search traffic you’re about to lose.

Either way, it’s probably a good idea to assess your level of preparedness, and understand the most common issues and what it takes to fix them. Before we jump into that, let’s take a quick look what’s going to happen and why it matters.

Why the Update is Happening Now

For years it seemed that speakers at every conference I attended proclaimed it was “the year of mobile.” I’m not sure exactly which year it was, but it seems that one (or all) of them was right.

The trend has been clear for some time now, with desktop traffic steadily decreasing and mobile traffic steadily increasing at approximately the same rate. The chart below shows that we’re quickly approaching a 60/40 split in favor of desktop, but that split has already surpassed 50% in favor of mobile in many countries where mobile usage is greater than desktop.

desktop-vs-moible

With this major shift to mobile and Google’s desire to maintain quality search results regardless of device, this change was bound to come. And it’s going to be a big change. The mobile-friendly algorithm will be a global change that significantly impacts Google’s mobile search results – perhaps bigger than the Panda or Penguin updates.

Assessing Your Level of Mobile-Friendliness

Google has been stressing the importance of mobile for quite a while, not only directly, but implicitly through a steady series of documentation updates, Web master Central blogs, and mobile testing tools. Fortunately that’s left us with a ton of great resources. So if you’re serious about understanding mobile from Google’s perspective, their extensive Mobile-Friendly Websites guide is a great place to start.

To determine if you’re ready for the mobile-friendly update, these are going to be the main tools you’ll need:

Google’s Mobile-friendly Label

The very first thing you should do to see if Google has recognized your site as mobile-friendly is to search for your site on a mobile device and see if it displays the “Mobile-friendly”

mobile-friendly-label

If you think your site is mobile-friendly, but you’re not seeing that annotation, you’ll definitely want to dig into why. And even if you’re seeing that label, keep in mind that it’s given on a per-page basis, so you’ll want to be sure to check your top pages, if not your whole site.

Mobile Usability Report in Google Webmaster Tools

Spot-checking pages is tedious and I wouldn’t recommend it for a large site. To more efficiently get a view of the top pages with issues across your site, check out the Mobile Usability section in Google Webmaster Tools. This report specifically identifies pages on your domain that are suffering from mobile errors. This tool will be critical in helping you prioritize mobile usability issues across your site.

Google’s PageSpeed Insights

Even if you’ve got the “Mobile-friendly” annotation in your results, you may have issues that could impact mobile usability down the road. Google’s PageSpeed Insights tool provides a lot of information not only pertaining to mobile usability, but as the name implies, to page load speed on both the desktop and mobile experiences. Page load speed is a known ranking factor and that could increase in weighting as mobile adoption continues to grow.

pagespeed-insights-screen

PageSpeed Insights shows a screen capture of your page to give you an idea of how Google sees it. There’s a known issue with PageSpeed Insights, however, that will indicate your page is mobile-friendly, but then display a screen capture that obviously doesn’t render well in mobile. This typically happens when you’re blocking resources that are required to render the page. Check your robots.txt file to ensure you’re not blocking any CSS or JavaScript files needed to properly render the mobile page.

Device Emulation Mode in Chrome

If you’re deep in the throes of fixing mobile usability issues on your site and need an efficient way to view different screen sizes directly in your browser, check out Device Emulation Mode in Chrome. It’ll allow you to emulate several screen sizes and resolutions, as well as various network speeds.

device-mode-chrome

To find Device Emulation mode, Go to the main navigation in Chrome and look under More Tools > Developer Tools. Once the window opens you’ll see a little phone icon, as indicated in the screen grab above. Click that to toggle Device Emulation mode.

How to Be Mobile-Friendly

As I mentioned in the previous section, Google’s Mobile-Friendly Website guide contains everything you need to know to create a mobile-friendly user experience. Below is a summary of the most common mistakes that Google finds on mobile websites. They’re the errors you’ll most often encounter in the Mobile-Friendly Test, PageSpeed Insights, and the Mobile Usability Report in Webmaster Tools.

Mobile only 404s: If you have a separate mobile site and automatically redirect users from desktop URLs to mobile URLs based on user agent, make sure the mobile URLs to which you’re redirecting actually exist. That might seem obvious, but this is a common error. To avoid these types of issues, I always recommend building mobile URLs that are closely aligned with desktop URLs, such that it’s easy to predict the mobile URL format given the desktop equivalent.

Faulty redirects: These most often occur when a user enters on an interior page of the desktop site from search results, but is redirected to the mobile homepage. If you’re going to redirect mobile users from your desktop site, make sure you’re redirecting to the equivalent URL on your mobile site and not the homepage.

Flash usage: Flash isn’t supported by iOS or Android versions 4.1 and higher. If you’re sending users to a page that uses Flash, it’s not going to be considered mobile-friendly. Worse yet, the page is going to be broken for a lot of users, so consider using more up-to-date, mobile-friendly technologies.

Viewport not configured: You’ll want to be sure you’re using a meta viewport element in the head section of each page to let browsers know how to adjust page dimensions and scale based on the device.

Fixed-width viewport: Developers sometimes set a fixed-width viewport in an effort to fit a fixed-width (non-responsive) design into a mobile device viewport. Problem is: Google doesn’t consider it mobile-friendly and will display an error. To fix, you’ll want to take the responsive approach and set the viewport to match the device’s width and scale.

Content not sized to viewport: The main issue here is that you don’t want users to have to scroll horizontally. If you’re using large, fixed-width elements that need a large viewport to display properly, you’ll likely see this error. Google’s suggestion is to use CSS media queries to apply different style for a range of screen sizes.

Small font size: If users have to “pinch to zoom” in order to read your font size, it’s too small and Google won’t consider it mobile-friendly. Some good rules of thumb: a) use a base font of 16 CSS pixels and from there use sizes relative to that base to scale the font, and b) use the browser default line height of 1.2em. Those general guidelines depend on the specific font being used, so when in doubt, whip out a phone and see if your friends can easily read the font on your website.

Touch elements too close: The average adult finger pad size is about 10mm wide, so, based on that, the Android UI guidelines recommend a tap target size of about 7mm, or 48 CSS pixels (assuming you have a properly set mobile viewport). Again, when in doubt, take out your phone and do some testing to ensure it’s easy to avoid “fat fingering” touch elements in your mobile design.

What to Keep an Eye on as the Mobile-Friendly Update Rolls Out

For my client sites and my own, the main things I’m going to be watching are 1) total Google search traffic from mobile devices, 2) distribution of sessions by device between desktop, mobile, and tablet, 3) total mobile traffic, and 4) number of sessions per mobile device.

We created a handy custom dashboard for Google Analytics that contains all of the views above. Feel free to access it and add it to the Google Analytics profile of your choice to keep tabs on the right metrics as this update rolls out. Let me know in the comments below if there’s a particular metric you think would be a helpful addition.

Mobile-Friendly FAQs

The mobile-friendly ranking signal is one of hundreds of signals designed to return the best results. Mobile results could still return a non-mobile-friendly result if that’s deemed to be the best result (like perhaps for branded searches). Focusing on the overall mobile experience is probably more productive than focusing on the algorithm itself, but when you need to prioritize, it’s helpful to know which concerns to scratch off your list first. The following FAQ is a summary of the questions that came out of the mobile-friendly Q&A session with Mary and Michael of the Webmaster Relations team at Google.

Q: Will the mobile-friendly update have any effect on desktop rankings?

A: No. The update will affect the mobile results only. You shouldn’t see any change to desktop rankings.

Q: Will the mobile-friendly update apply to all languages?

A: Yes. However, you may see the update affecting one language and not another for a short period as the update will take a number of days to roll out completely.

Q: Will this algorithm update affect tablets?

A: No. Google serves the desktop experience for tablets. You may serve a tablet-specific experience after users click on the desktop results in Google, but Google will continue to display your desktop URLs in search.

Q: Are their varying degrees of Mobile-friendliness?

A: No. You’re either mobile-friendly or you’re not. That could certainly change in the future as Google fine-tunes the algorithm, but initially there will not be degrees of mobile-friendliness.

Q: Does my whole site have to be mobile-friendly?

A: No. Mobile-friendliness is determined on a per-page basis. This is why it’s a good idea to prioritize your top pages if your site isn’t yet mobile friendly.

Q: Is there a ranking benefit to using responsive design?

A: No. Responsive, separate mobile site, and dynamic are all mobile-friendly implementation options. Google recommends responsive design because it’s easier to maintain and less error prone.

Q: I fixed a mobile usability issue on my site. How long until I get the Mobile-friendly label?

A: The mobile-friendly algorithm will run in real-time. If you’ve made an update to be mobile-friendly, you should see that reflected the next time your page is crawled.

Q: Is it okay to have a single desktop page that gets broken up into several pages on mobile?

A: This happens frequently in an effort to make mobile pages lighter and faster.

Unfortunately, Google expects the bi-directional annotation, rel=alternate and rel=canonical, to have a 1:1 relationship. Since Google doesn’t support this behavior, they may not be able to effectively consolidate ranking signals between the mobile and desktop versions.

Q: Will this affect Google News? AdWords?

A: No. The mobile-friendly algorithm only pertains to Google’s organic results only.

Are You Ready for Mobilegeddon?

Google certainly has the power to effect change on the web, and the mobile-friendly algorithm update is going to force a lot of holdouts to make mobile usability improvements in short order.

If you have a mobile-friendly site and feel good about all the factors outlined in this article, good for you. You might see an incremental traffic gain as competitors who outranked you in mobile search with desktop experiences get moved down in the SERPs.

Mobile SEO Visibility – Prepare yourself for the huge Google Mobile Update on April 21st

How my website performs in mobile searches on smartphones is increasingly different to my desktop performance. Particularly now that Google has announced it will release an update on April 21st, which will have a significant impact on websites that are NOT mobile friendly. According to Google Webmaster Trends Analyst Zineb Ait Bahajji the coming Mobile Update will have a much stronger impact then any Panda update!

As a marketer, I now have to know how big this difference will be on my domain and where there is specific room for optimization. Because if the traffic from mobile devices continues to rise, and the wheat separates from the chaff, then I have only a few possibilities to find out the following points:

  • What is the status of my mobile performance?
  • What do I ideally have to do to improve it?
  • What does my competition look like?

It is therefore even more important to have a basis of comparison in which the specific difference between my Desktop and Mobile Visibility can be recognized. Our new Beta-Version is now live providing you first indications on the Visibility difference:

Mobile SEO Visibility vs. Desktop Visibility - ScreenIndividual search results by device

At Searchmetrics we have been working on search differences between mobile and desktop for years. Therefore, we already collected & analzyed data last year for providing facts about differences of the Mobile SEO Ranking Factors. The split between mobile and desktop search results is measurable. At our last Mobile Ranking Factor study in 2014 the difference of URLs between Desktop and Mobile index was already 36%.

Difference Mobile vs Desktop

It’s for this reason that we have been tracking the same keywords for months in the mobile area as we have for desktop searches. This is, firstly, to see how the results keep differentiating more and more (which they definitely do) and, secondly, with the intention of giving our users the opportunity to have more evidence for their optimization.

And so, the time has come: the Mobile SEO Visibility (Beta) is now available as a KPI in the Searchmetrics Suite for all users, providing first indications for figuring out main differences between Desktop and Mobile SEO Visibility.

Comparability of Desktop and Mobile Visibility

The starting problem is: Desktop and Mobile cannot really be compared and analyzed to one another under real conditions. In the mobile area, there are different click-through-rates, search volumes, user intentions and the influence of local parameters on the search results is different.

Nevertheless, we want to make a comparison between Desktop and Mobile index possible and have converted our calculation of the normal SEO Visibility – which is based on a dynamic CTR calculation by machine learning algorithms – 1:1 to mobile. Why? Because we consider it to be intrinsic to prepare a mutual basis as a KPI in the form of this comparison. Especially to see how the performance is now and how it will change at April 21st.

The Mobile SEO Visibility will be updated weekly.

We have decided on an Android smartphone as a user agent. Differences between iOS and Android can occur, but in my opinion they are irrelevant, as the only differences that I have previously witnessed occur in queries for apps. For example, if you search for ‘netflix’, the Apple App Store ranks on an iPhone, whereas the Google Play Store ranks on an Android. This is also the reason why apple.com and google.com show such great deviations in Mobile SEO Visibility. Other than this, there have not been any further relevant differences between these domains so far.

Mobile SEO Visibility with desktop comparison at a glance

From now on, there are new KPIs for the evaluation of Mobile SEO Visibility (Beta) in the research area. The new search result page of the Searchmetrics Suite in the research area looks like this:

Mobile SEO Visibility Research OverviewThe rank overview, which was previously displayed across the entire page width, has moved to a closed circular graphic on the left side – in favor of the new ‘Desktop vs Mobile’ KPI. By the way, we have dubbed this circular graphic ‘mojo’, as in Austin Powers, as it shows at a glance how much mojo a domain has in a respective country and which channel works best! We have also pre-calculated the Mobile SEO Visibility on all subdomains so that you can see how a mobile subdomain, such as en.m.wikipedia.org or m.imdb.com, performs.

The new KPIs and possibilities at a glance:

  • Desktop vs Mobile Visibility – comparison of visibility on the same database
    • Difference been Desktop and Mobile Visibility (circular graphic with percentage overlap of the respective Visibility)
    • Trend desktop/trend mobile – to previous week
  • Mobile SEO Visibility (SEO research)
  • Mobile Paid Visibility (SEO research)
  • Mojo with the ranks for SEO, paid, social and links
  • Toplist domains (top 10/ top 100) comparison of SEO visibility desktop vs mobile

1. Recognize problem: same database for desktop and mobile

This ‘Desktop vs Mobile’ KPI offers the simplest way to create comparability between Desktop and Mobile Visibility performance. In order to ensure this comparability, we work with identical CTR calculation and search volume on the basis of desktop values.

2. Solve problem: individual data for mobile

We know that both CTR and search volume differ in the mobile area. We have already been working with mobile data for years and have even offered mobile rankings in the project area of our Suite since June 2013. Therefore, we recommend this new Mobile SEO Visibility (Beta) only be used as an indicator in order to understand how the performance between mobile and desktop differs.

For an optimum mobile measurement of performance, individual, local rankings for mobile with individual mobile search volume are necessary. We offer this data and functionality within the project area in the Searchmetrics Suite using more than 800 search machine/country/device combinations.

Organic Keyword Rankings per Device - Searchmetrics Suite Projet Area

Conclusion: From data comparison to deep analysis

The new ‘Desktop vs Mobile’ KPI can been seen as the starting point for recognizing how big the overlap between my Desktop and my Mobile Visibility is. Furthermore, the trend shows at a glance how my performance has recently developed. Due to the fact that this KPI is part of the research area, all users of the Suite benefit from this update, which spans not only the SEO but also the PPC area.

In order to be prepared for April 21 – Google’s mobile update – and thereafter, the tracking of concrete mobile rankings is required. This is already available in the project area of the Suite, taking into account also historical developments and individual data.