Google’s mobile-friendly SEO update: is your site compatible?

Written by: Endouble Endouble

If your website is not yet suitable for mobile devices (e.g. not a responsive or adaptive website) or mobile-friendly, then you will probably see a decrease in your organic traffic from Google search results from now on. That’s because starting on 21 April, the Google algorithm is giving a ranking advantage to websites adapted for use on mobile devices.


Google’s decision did not appear out of the blue. Back in November 2014, the search engine started marking mobile-friendly websites in the search results with a smart-phone symbol. Since February 2015, this appears to have been replaced by the addition ‘for mobile’.

(Update on 22 April: Google now seems to be experimenting with a mobile-friendly indicator)


The reason for the mobile-friendly update is nothing new either: mobile search traffic has increased explosively in recent years, so much so that it has surpassed desktop search traffic. Google has now responded to this trend by giving mobile-friendly websites preferential treatment. This means that these sites will be ranked higher in Google results at the expense of non-mobile-friendly websites.

Source: BIA Kelsey Source: BIA Kelsey

Facts: real-time, page-by-page and organic mobile search only

Unlike other Google algorithm updates, important details of the mobile-friendly update were known from an early stage. In a nutshell:

  • The update has an impact worldwide and in all languages on mobile organic search results only. In other words, it has no effect on advertisements.
  • Only mobile results are affected, i.e. searches via smart phones, but not tablet searches.
  • It works in real time. Once a page becomes mobile-friendly, it is quickly labelled ‘for mobile’ (depending on the crawl speed).
  • The update is on a page-by-page basis, which means that every page is evaluated separately. This makes it possible to adapt your website for mobile use in a series of iterations. You can start with the most important pages (for mobile use), such as your job vacancy pages.
  • Although the rollout of the update started on 21 April, it could take days or weeks before the effect is noticeable on Dutch sites.


Is your website ready for the update?

Naturally, you want to know whether your website is ready for the Google mobile-friendly algorithm. That question can be answered in two steps.

1. Is your website mobile?

To determine whether your website has a mobile-friendly version, visit the site using a mobile device. If you only see a zoomed-out version of the desktop display, your site is not mobile-friendly. In all other instances, it is either a responsive or adaptive website or a mobile site via a parallel URL (such as
You can easily test whether your website is responsive via the site ‘Am I Responsive’.


2. Is your mobile website mobile-friendly?

Test whether your website is mobile-friendly using the Mobielvriendelijke Test van Google. This tool evaluates your website and provides immediate feedback on those aspects that should be adapted in order to be eligible for the ‘mobile-friendly’ label.

Not mobile? Time to take action!

It may very well be that your website is not suitable for viewing on a mobile device. If so, it’s high time to take action. There are several options for adapting your website: a responsive design, an adaptive design and a parallel URL. Not sure what to choose? We’re here to help.

responsive-designResponsive design: with a responsive design, the URL and HTML are the same for all devices. CSS is used to adapt the layout to the screen size of various devices. In other words, the design of your website rescales to match the screen size of different devices. The content remains the same. This design is recognised by Google as mobile-friendly as long as CSS and JavaScript are accessible to the Googlebot.

adaptive-designAdaptive design: an adaptive design has the same URL but different HTMLs for different devices. HTML and CSS are used in combination to generate a suitable display for mobile devices. Unlike a responsive design, an adaptive design can display adapted mobile content. For this configuration, it is advisable to use the Vary HTTP header to alert Google to the presence of the mobile content.

Parallel URL: the content display on a separate URL uses different URLs, HTMLs and CSS sources for different devices. Although this configuration makes it possible to offer content afzonderlijke-urlsspecifically designed for a particular device, there are also numerous disadvantages. First, due to the huge number of different devices, the display will never be entirely suitable. The indexing of the mobile site also frequently becomes mixed up with the indexing of the desktop version. As a result, desktop users may see mobile pages. With this type of configuration, it is also crucial to have your canonical URLS in tip-top shape in order to avoid duplicate content.
Google does not distinguish between these three configurations as long as they are accessible to the Googlebot. However, preference is given to a responsive or adaptive design. Indeed, we expect that Google will make a distinction in the future, so we recommend choosing a responsive or adaptive design.

Source of images: Google

Knowledge session on SEO, Analytics and UX design for mobile recruitment

In the knowledge session we devoted to this topic on 21 april it became clear that most websites we tested on the spot were not mobile-friendly. Although a large proportion of Fortune 500 companies have not got this right yet either, it shows that there is still plenty of work to be done at many companies in terms of mobile-friendliness.

Would you like to view the slides used at the knowledge session? No problem. View the SEO en Analytics presentation for mobile recruitment and UX design for mobile recruitment on Slideshare.

Custom advice?

Need help interpreting the test results? Or would you like custom advice on the best approach and improvements to your particular talent acquisition platform? Use the comments section below or contact me.