In an effort to enhance its service for the increasing volume of mobile users, Google announced an update to their search algorithm that uses mobile-friendliness as a ranking signal. As a result, mobile-friendly websites will rank higher in Google’s mobile search results.

How Google’s Mobile-friendly Algorithm Update Affects Your Website

Google’s announcement is somewhat unprecedented, providing specific details of the change, as well as an exact roll out date. “When it comes to search on mobile devices, users should get the most relevant and timely results, no matter if the information lives on mobile-friendly web pages or apps,” the company noted. “As more people use mobile devices to access the Internet, our algorithms have to adapt to these usage patterns.”

What you need to know about the algorithm change

Effective April 21, Google will be expanding its use of mobile-friendliness as a ranking signal. While this change will only affect mobile searches (for now), it will have a significant impact on search results. Mobile users will now receive search results that are relevant and optimized for their devices. So websites that are relevant and optimized for mobile will rise to the top of the searches.

This not only helps mobile users, but it’s also a positive change for Google itself. By providing a better experience for mobile users, this could give Google a boost against its competitors, such as Bing and Yahoo, in the search market.

Mobile traffic continues to increase

According to Search Engine Watch, mobile Internet usage exceeded desktop usage for the first time in early 2014. In addition, 77 percent of executives use their smartphone to research a product or service for their business.

We even took a look at Google Analytics for our own clients in a variety of industries, including financial services, A/E/C and education. Mobile traffic from January to March 2015 ranged from 10 percent to 35 percent. This means if your website isn’t optimized for mobile, then up to one-third of your traffic could begin to disappear starting April 21.

If you’re interested to see if your website passes the test, you can use Google’s mobile-friendly test.

An opportunity for businesses

For firms with websites that are not optimized for mobile devices, this news is not great. But for companies with responsive websites, this is excellent news. This algorithm change presents an opportunity for mobile-optimized firms to have an advantage over competitors who have not optimized their sites for mobile yet. For example, a mobile-optimized second-tier firm in a market has the ability to jump on larger competitors that may not have optimized their site yet.

Mobile search traffic will only continue to increase, so if your company wants to get a step ahead of the competition, be sure your website is responsive and optimized for all devices.

The writing is on the wall

Google has been hinting at this inevitable emphasis on mobile for some time, having emphatically endorsed responsive design over the last few years, adding “mobile-friendly” labels to the mobile search results and creating the mobile-friendly testing tool. And while the change on April 21 will only impact mobile searches, it’s clear that mobile-friendliness (and optimal user experience regardless of device) will continue to carry more weight in future search algorithm updates for Google, as well as other search engines.

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It’s safe to say that the takeaway from this update is that mobile-friendliness is no longer a “nice-to-have” for your company’s website. In order to stay relevant in an increasingly mobile and multi-device landscape, responsive design is critical to both user experience and SEO.