As we'd blogged about previously, Google announced a few months back that it was planning to implement some changes to its ranking factors that would penalize sites that aren't mobile-friendly. In its ongoing quest to produce better results in an increasingly mobile world, Google apparently sees less value in sites that won't display well on those devices. This change is now set to roll out in April, according to Google's central blog.
The blog recently said the following of the change:
Starting April 21, we will be expanding our use of mobile-friendliness as a ranking signal. This change will affect mobile searches in all languages worldwide and will have a significant impact in our search results. Consequently, users will find it easier to get relevant, high quality search results that are optimized for their devices.
This has spawned some discussion, largely regarding the differences in wording from a month or so ago and this more recent statement. Previously the word was that Google would penalize sites that weren't mobile-friendly, but more recent statements mention rewarding mobile-friendly sites.
It's semantics, and in our opinion doesn't make much of a difference. Whether your site gets a bonus that others don't or yours merely avoids a penalty that others get, in either case you have the opportunity to rank better by utilizing responsive design.
The drawback probably won't be severe, at least not for awhile. If you've been considering redesigning your site to incorporate a responsive design, this is a good time to kick that plan into action. If Google continues to roll in this direction in future algorithm updates, we can expect the ranking gap between mobile-friendly sites and older ones to grow.
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