History of SEO Part 3: Google Mobile Updates and Beyond

June 30, 2016 - Published By Jackie Richmond, SEO Strategist

If the last 20 years of SEO history have made anything clear, it’s that things are constantly evolving and changing. What works to get a website ranked today won’t necessarily work tomorrow, and can even backfire as we saw in response to Google’s Penguin and Panda updates (if you missed Part 2 of our SEO history series, you’ll find much more info on that here). Learn the current state of SEO and how Google’s mobile updates — “Mobilegeddon” and “Mobile-friendly 2” — are poised to respond to the increase in mobile device usage world-wide.

After Google’s Panda update targeted low-quality content, website owners paid greater attention to the type and quality of content on their sites, eschewing low-quality or thin content in favor of strong content. This put the onus on site administrators and content creators to identify and remove low quality content or replace it with good content. Websites that were penalized after Panda and made site improvements could receive a better ranking when the algorithm was refreshed, a process that could take months.

After the Penguin update, Google gave website owners a chance to recover from a penalty by introducing the disavow tool. This tool allowed owners to disavow any bad links to their website, after attempts had been made to remove poor quality links and paid links. By removing spammy backlinks from directories, comments, and shady sites, website owners could get their site over the penalty and recover in SERPs.

As these cases illustrate, Google is still a major gatekeeper when it comes to SEO strategy. In the current SEO landscape, website owners must play by Google’s book of rules or risk getting left behind in search engine results. Unfortunately for some website owners, they hired dubious SEO “experts” to optimize their site. Their sites received Google penalties when the “experts” used black hat SEO tactics to get quick results. For more on black hat techniques, see our previous post. This illustrates just how important it is to work with trusted SEO service providers who are familiar with the Google algorithm updates and know how to optimize web content using actual best practices instead of underhanded black hat schemes.

Mobilegeddon and Beyond
On April 21, 2015 Google tweaked its algorithm with the “Mobilegeddon” update, and began using mobile access as a ranking factor for websites. Websites that had a mobile responsive design received a higher ranking than websites without a mobile responsive design. On May 12, 2016, Google rolled out another algorithm update, titled “Mobile-friendly 2”, to strengthen search visibility for mobile friendly websites.

Websites now rank higher if they demonstrate a commitment to responsive design, and mobile device users can rest assured that the top search results they see will display well on their devices. These Google mobile updates expand upon a 2013 update, which hid websites with poor mobile design from mobile searchers. If you’ve been holding off on embracing responsive web design, this may be the final push you need.

Ultimately, mobile access is still just one factor in Google’s ranking algorithm. If the current search results are telling, mobile responsiveness falls behind page load time and speed. Pages can be responsive in design, yet slow to load from the extra code that’s needed to create responsiveness. At least at present, these pages could still fall behind those that are fast-loading but not mobile. When it comes to ranking high in search results, it can be difficult for businesses to predict the perfect formula for success.

As the latest algorithm update shows, the only thing constant about SEO is change. No matter where you are in your SEO journey, it’s important to ensure that your website is using current best practices in SEO strategy. Always keep one ear to the ground so you can adopt new trends early, instead of having to play catch-up while your website languishes in the search engine results placement.