Updated Google search algorithm prioritizes mobile-friendly sites

Mobile devices are increasingly becoming the way that many people view web sites, and Google is changing its search algorithm to reflect this fact. As of today, sites that the company's algorithm determines to be unfriendly for mobile browsing will be demoted in Google search results on smartphones. Searches from PCs and tablets won't be affected by the change.

Image: Google

What makes for a mobile-friendly site? Google's blog post on the algorithm change says sites optimized for smartphones should have finger-friendly tap targets, text that's readable without tapping or zooming, and rich content that's playable on mobile devices. Google also says mobile-friendly pages should avoid horizontal scrolling.

For those concerned about their site's readiness, Google has set up a testing page that checks a given URL against its mobile-friendly criteria, and it's posted some resources for developers whose sites don't pass muster. If you have questions, this FAQ provides more information about the new algorithm and its impacts.

Comments closed
    • rutra80
    • 5 years ago

    To me this move doesn’t look like something that is supposed to improve the searches, rather like a monopolistic move to strengthen their position – Google provides mobile-only OS, desktop OS’es and desktops themselves (well, laptops too – anything bigger than a tablet) are competitors standing on its way – the more mobile the market is, the more market share they have, hence they’re promoting it.
    I can understand the general move to mobile, but in this case they’re prioritizing something that has more to do with little displays than with mobileness (even though these two things are connected). It seems artificial. Even if desktops/laptops will go away completely one day, leaving us with some little boxes in our pockets or wearables, we still will want to display things on big screen at our homes (or on contact lenses, spanning the whole sight), not on integrated tiny displays only.
    I still hope that the touch and tiny displays hype will go away.

    • NeelyCam
    • 5 years ago

    My Google News & Weather app broke today, and I have no idea why.

    It used to have three items for all my categories on the first summary “page”, and subsequent pages would show additional items on the categories. Now, the category pages have only three items – the same ones as on the summary page.

    I see no config option for adjusting the number of items shown on the category pages… which sucks in itself, because I would prefer more than 10. The old “TinyGoogleNews” app that can’t be found on Google Play anymore allowed me to configure the number of items. It also had black background (less battery drain on AMOLED), it was faster, it showed additional related items in a better way…

    I’m sad about losing TinyGoogleNews. It was a fantastic app – much better than google’s crappy one.

    • NovusBogus
    • 5 years ago

    I wonder if I can use this from my PC if I really want to. For the most part I dislike mobile-centric culture, but I’ve about had it with basic websites eating up many megabytes and taking forever to load because you’re not cool until you have 100000 worthless plugins. Seriously, I thought we left the bad old days behind when Myspace went down in flames but apparently everything’s cool if Amazon and/or Facebook are involved. Ugh…I could load Newgrounds over single-digit DSL speeds faster than a lot of stuff these days.

      • travbrad
      • 5 years ago

      If you haven’t already, block flash unless a site actually needs it. That’s usually the huge hog of memory and CPU. A lot of flash stuff slowly takes up more memory the longer you leave it open too, so if you have a million tabs open it can get really bad.

      It’s mostly used for ads now anyway, and usually the most annoying ones at that (like those autoplay video ads)

    • derFunkenstein
    • 5 years ago

    As phones get bigger and bigger, the need for mobile sites is decreasing. Yes I know not everyone has a big 5″ phone (mine isn’t even quite that large), but we’re not looking at 480×320 3″ screens anymore.

      • Deanjo
      • 5 years ago

      Until you run across a site that requires you to enter information on a bunch of fields…..

        • derFunkenstein
        • 5 years ago

        I said “decreasing” – ENGLISH, MOTHER FUCKER! DO YOU SPEAK IT?!

          • Deanjo
          • 5 years ago

          And the amount of sites you have to enter information on is INCREASING with the adaptation of web services. I SPEAK IT FINE!

            • sweatshopking
            • 5 years ago

            lolirl

    • NeelyCam
    • 5 years ago

    Bing doesn’t do this, right?

      • anotherengineer
      • 5 years ago

      Couldn’t tell you, as I am not a slave to the smart phone companies and carrier’s!!

      Sucka’s!!!!!!!!!!

      • Klimax
      • 5 years ago

      I don’t think so.

    • finally
    • 5 years ago

    Look through the requirements. They basically exclude everything that a good business site would need — room for promotions, stuff like that. Basically any site with more information than can fit in four square inches doesn’t fit google’s idea of mobile.

    Worthless.

      • Sam125
      • 5 years ago

      Yeah, I agree with the sentiment. Most business sites aren’t going to be bothered enough to design both a main site and a dedicated mobile site. Google has a particularly consumer oriented mindeset with mobile with these changes.

      +1. 🙂

        • finally
        • 5 years ago

        Indeed. and it’s actually worse than that. Most of my clients that do have mobile sites do something very different with them.

        The mobile site isn’t designed to be the main site on a smaller screen. It’s designed to serve the client on the road, not in the office. So the product catalogue site doesn’t get reshaped in mobile, it gets thrown out in favour of a simple listing of manuals — because that’s what installers on-the-road and in-the-field need. Those same installers use the desktop site when they are — surprise — at their desks doing product research.

        The mobile vs desktop isn’t a screen’s size issue. It’s a visitor’s purpose issue. Different tool means different purpose, and hence a different site entirely.

        Google misses the entire point here, and that’s because they couldn’t care less. Google doesn’t make money from business-to-business sites. Google only makes money from consumer-oriented and mass-market sites.

          • Sam125
          • 5 years ago

          I used to purchase material from places like Grainger, Fischer Scientific and other scientific/industrial warehouses. I wouldn’t be surprised if a lot of similar businesses who wouldn’t be focused on mobile at all would be inadvertently negatively affected by this change with Google’s mobile search algorithms to people who might be searching for sources on their mobile device.

          [spoiler<]So I agree with you. (No idea who keeps downvoting you)[/spoiler<]

        • [+Duracell-]
        • 5 years ago

        Businesses should be designing responsive websites, not dedicated mobile sites. Responsive websites should have the same features as the full site, but have different CSS and JS to make the content readable and usable on a mobile screen.

    • GrimDanfango
    • 5 years ago

    If they can prioritize only mobile sites that strictly provide nothing less than the exact same content and navigation options as the desktop variants, then maybe we’d actually get somewhere. “Mobile site” to me currently == “broken site”.

      • GrimDanfango
      • 5 years ago

      …oh, and while we’re at it… can it be made a requirement for listing on Google that all restaurant websites clearly provide their address, their opening hours and their menu as the first three entries on the goddamn homepage? Why the hell else would I be visiting a restaurant’s website? I’m astounded how few businesses think to list their opening hours – it’s a lot less than businesses who think I’d be interested to know what their “vision” is.

        • VincentHanna
        • 5 years ago

        Fortunately, Google already knows all the restaurants’ operating hours and contact info (address/phone).

        Actually going to a restaurant’s site to get that has become redundant.

    • FireGryphon
    • 5 years ago

    Ooh, this isn’t a good move. I want a web search to return the same content to me no matter where I am. Might have to move to another engine.

      • GrimDanfango
      • 5 years ago

      Hint – Google hasn’t been giving you the same search results as anyone else for YEARS. Even if you meticulously clear cache, cookies, whatever. You’ll always get profiled search results based on location, language, and quite likely IP address associated browsing habits.
      I strictly browse only with full Firefox private mode at all times, yet I’ve noticed my search results definitely prioritize xkcd-related results above a friend of mine.

      Go try Duckduckgo, and read what they say about other search engines.

      • wingless
      • 5 years ago

      You sound like a European…

        • GrimDanfango
        • 5 years ago

        Pesky Europeans, always being concerned about search profiling. Not like you’d catch Americans behaving that way…

    • UnfriendlyFire
    • 5 years ago

    What about “mobile” sites that are far buggier than the desktop version?

    For example, TR’s comment section on mobile mode is very disorganized compared to the desktop mode.

    • brucethemoose
    • 5 years ago

    [url<]https://xkcd.com/869/[/url<]

      • LauRoman
      • 5 years ago

      Bingo, i reall hate mobile sites that don’t carry over links or cookies and lack site options.

      Responsive design > Mobile portal.

        • xeridea
        • 5 years ago

        I hate responsive design because if you want to view site in its full glory on your phone it is literally impossible. With mobile you can opt to view full site. Also most responsive sites make text to be read from 20 feet away so you get like 5 words per screen and have to scroll for hours to get to what you want.

          • cynan
          • 5 years ago

          Yep. A large proportion of newer mobile phones and tablets have 1080p or greater resolution screens and many mobile sites still look like they are largely designed for 320×480.

      • hurleybird
      • 5 years ago

      With a 5.5″ 1080p screen, I can just read desktop sites zoomed all the way out most of the time. Mobile sites can die in a fire.

      • Concupiscence
      • 5 years ago

      That is [i<]exactly[/i<] what happens when I try to visit classic.wunderground.com on my iPhone. The page loads, and then I get a sudden redirect with "HEY it looks like you're using an iPhone, would you like to use our iPhone-specific page?!" "Uh... no." "OK HERE IS OUR DEFAULT MOBILE PAGE KTHXBYE" Repeat process, slowly begin to taste blood, then experience the final indignity of having [b<]no way[/b<] to contact the webmaster to let him know that his page makes me feel like finding an alternative that isn't brain-damaged.

    • faramir
    • 5 years ago

    I started prioritizing DuckDuckGo.com on my Nexus 5.

    • anotherengineer
    • 5 years ago

    [url<]http://www.fly4change.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/03/Screen-Shot-2013-03-10-at-12.28.00-AM.png[/url<]

      • xeridea
      • 5 years ago

      I think considering tablets is stupid. The screen on tablets is plenty big for full view.

    • NTMBK
    • 5 years ago

    Currently reading TR on my phone with the desktop site, because your comment view is busted as hell on mobile.

      • xeridea
      • 5 years ago

      Me also. I just turn my phone sideways and the site looks fine. I think the real issue with this mobile site craze is people forgot that their phones rotate.

      • derFunkenstein
      • 5 years ago

      What phone/browser? Comments look fine (other than not being threaded) on mobile for me.

        • xeridea
        • 5 years ago

        Not being threaded is a huge deal when trying to follow comments.

          • GrimDanfango
          • 5 years ago

          Yeah, I find it makes it pretty much impossible to know what’s going on in the current enforced-threadless state. I would far sooner take a little zooming over a comment thread that fits the screen nicely but doesn’t make the remotest sense.

          • Convert
          • 5 years ago

          Back in my day we read all TR comments flattened.

            • NeelyCam
            • 5 years ago

            Wow. That sounds awful. Like S|A forums

        • NTMBK
        • 5 years ago

        Android Lollipop. Its the lack of threading which I object to 😉

          • derFunkenstein
          • 5 years ago

          Yeah that can get hairy in a big discussion. So it’s working as intended, you just don’t like the intent.

          • sweatshopking
          • 5 years ago

          I use it too. WP 8.1

      • JosiahBradley
      • 5 years ago

      Works fine for me as I browse TechReport almost solely on mobile. Maybe it’s your browser, I use Opera on Android.

        • NeelyCam
        • 5 years ago

        Either you’re not actually looking at the mobile version, or you don’t read comments

      • NeelyCam
      • 5 years ago

      Yes. The lack of threading is beyond annoying, rendering “mobile” version totally useless.

        • Wonders
        • 5 years ago

        Agreed. I avoid the TR mobile site because I know I’ll just have to go read the same article again on the desktop site to comprehend the comments.

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