In a potentially far-reaching move, Google is tweaking its search engine algorithms to increase the ranking of Websites that are mobile-friendly.
The change will go into effect April 21 and will impact mobile searches in all languages and countries where Google is available.
On that date, users who conduct Google searches on their mobile devices will find it easier to get content that has been optimized for their devices, Google announced in a blog post. The change will have a "significant" impact on Google's search results, the company said. Sites that the company decides have been optimized for mobile viewing will receive a higher ranking than sites that it deems are not prepared for mobile.
"As more people use mobile devices to access the Internet, our algorithms have to adapt to these usage patterns," the blog noted. "Users should get the most relevant and timely results, no matter if the information lives on mobile-friendly web pages or apps."
Starting this week, Google will also feature content from indexed applications more prominently in search results for users who are logged into and have the application installed on their devices. Google said.
Google's move to tweak its search algorithms should not come as a surprise to those who have been following the company's recommendations in this regard for the past two years. Google has made a concerted effort to get Website owners to better configure their sites to be more easily viewable on mobile devices.
Previously, for example, the company has noted how improper Website configurations could result in faulty redirects for mobile users trying to access a particular Website. It has noted how some sites that serve up content to desktop users generate an error message when users land on their site with a smartphone or tablet.
The company has for some time been urging Website owners to avoid such common mistakes and has encouraged them to test their sites on multiple mobile devices and operating system environments to ensure that all mobile users have a consistent experience. Google also has proffered recommendations that it says Webmasters can use to make their sites more mobile-friendly. The company has dedicated guides for different platforms, including Wordpress, Drupal, Joomla and Tumblr.
As part of its efforts to promote mobile-friendliness, Google offers tips on how Website owners can make their sites more SEO-friendly in the mobile context and how to signal site configuration details to search engines like Google.
Since last November, Google has also been sticking a "mobile friendly" label on Websites that it believes are optimized for mobile viewing. Among the factors that it considers when deciding to give a Website that label are text size, content sizing and link placement, and the presence or absence of software like Flash that can slow down performance on mobile devices.
This week's announcement expands on those moves by directly linking a site's mobile readiness to search engine rankings for the first time. Google has made several resources available to help Websites prepare for the change. Among them is a guide to mobile-friendly sites, a site that lets Webmasters test the mobile-friendliness of individual Web pages and tools to help site owners identify mobile usability issues with their site.