Changes to Google mobile search results

Changes to Google mobile search results

Posted on 30 August 2016 by Jason

Last week, Google announced a few changes to their search algorithm – specifically affecting mobile.

The ‘Mobile Friendly’ label is no-more

When a search was carried out by the user, sites that were enhanced for mobile devices carried a label next to them stating that they were mobile friendly.

This change was added in around 2 years ago and allowed the user to see which site would cause the least amount of pinching or zooming, as well as showing which sites featured the easiest content to interact with. Whether that be the size of tap targets or line spacing of paragraphs, the complex algorithm ended up providing a reassuring snapshot to the user that they weren’t going to waste their time by going to the site.

Google Mobile Friendly Message

However, fast forward to the current day and nearly 85% of sites meet the criteria, so the label has been removed. It’s interesting to note that the criteria will still be used to affect where a site appears in search results.

Popups, ads and intrusive content will rank lower

We’ve all gone to a website, only to be greeted with a pop up showing an offer, an advert or a newsletter signup straight away. The technical name for these is interstitials. Occasionally these interstitials take up the vast majority of the screen with no noticeable way of closing or exiting them.

As of the 10th of January 2017, Google say “To improve the mobile search experience, pages where content is not easily accessible to a user on the transition from the mobile search results may not rank as highly.

Banned Interstitials

This basically means that website owners will have to find a new way advertising whatever they are pushing to users. 

There are some notable exceptions to the rule though. Google state that they will not penalise: 

  • Interstitials that feature a legal obligation. An example would be the cookie law message 
  • Login dialogs on private content such as email or items behind a paywall
  • Banners that leave a decent amount of space around them and are easily dismissible. Conveniently, Google use these banners to advertise Chrome to non-Chrome users

Allowed interstitials

The algorithm for displaying search criteria is far more complex than we could ever imagine, so we’d hazard a guess that sites will still be using these interstitials for a while, as the content beneath it may well be the most relevant to the user at that time.

It’ll be interesting to see just how organisations, brands and individuals interpret what a 'reasonable amount of screen space' actually is when using interstitial banners at the top of the screen though...

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