the 411 on Google's 4/21

quickly, the 411

As of April 21, 2015, Web pages that are not mobile-friendly according to Google standards will be removed from search results that originate on mobile devices. Here's how surprising this news should be, how it will impact search results, how to go about finding and fixing any issues with your own site and returning to your rightful place in search rankings.

expected news

Well, if you've been paying any attention to tMOSS over the last three to five years, we've been telling all of our clients and audience that this day was on the horizon. It is why we have painstakingly fought to keep our clients ahead of the curve, and it's finally here. Google has implemented new elements in its algorithm that necessarily marginalize websites that are not mobile-friendly in search results. In short, Google is forcing companies to stay up to date with technology if they wish to be found in search rankings.

No one says it better than Google, "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." Coming from a company whose profits are tied directly to its ability to deliver relevant search results to users, this statement is not surprising.

What may take people by surprise is the suddenness with which this update is landing, and the subsequent impact it may have. Google, marketers, website developers, and search engine optimization professionals all have been well aware of the shift from desktop device usage to mobile device usage. More people are preferring to use their mobile devices to access the Internet for a wide array of reasons. So, if your consultant has been preparing you for this update from Google, give him or her a raise. You are likely to profit from the coming months' scrambling on the part of your competitors.

the bottom line

There are really only two headlining changes in this update — there are always more, subtle changes that float to the surface in the aftermath of every Google update. We will talk about the two obvious, announced changes here.

web apps

It isn't jargon, "Web apps" is the appropriate technical term for applications that make calls to the Internet as part of their functionality. Now, when you search for "Clash of Clans" on your phone, you may find the actual application available to access from the search results (don't worry, we won't tell your boss that you're downloading and playing games at work). This applies only to apps that Google has indexed, so if you run a test and don't find your app, now you know why.


The bigger impact, or the impact that has most people worried — enough to label this update "MobileGeddon" — is on websites that are not mobile-friendly. That is, websites that do not meet Google's criteria for mobile-friendliness as it relates to the ease with which users are able to view content and navigate the website from mobile devices.

Websites that are not mobile-friendly will be removed from the results in searches that originate on mobile devices. Two things to note about this are:

  1. Google has not clarified where tablet devices fall in this update. Obviously tablet devices are mobile, but it is a lot easier to view standard Web pages from them. Historically, Google has treated them uniquely, taking into account the ways in which they share attributes with desktop and mobile devices. We believe this trend will continue, though some settling of the dust may be in order before all is set in stone.

  2. Google has indicated that the search results of mobile queries are the sole target of this update. However, we believe that as traffic favors mobile-friendly websites in mobile searches, those same websites will inherently receive a boost in their desktop search rankings. Also, to that end, Google states that the algorithm impacts individual pages, and not entire domains.

the good news

There is an upside to this news. Unlike in the past, where Google updates have been shrouded in mystery and the path to recovery (when needed) from penalties was tedious and costly, Google has been exceedingly helpful to webmasters with this update.

no gray area

Google's guidelines for mobile-friendliness are clear and concise. A page on a website either is or is not mobile-friendly, and Google has provided a mechanism that webmasters can use to discern this. In addition, Google provides clear explanation to webmasters whose pages do not meet the criteria, making the path to recovery very plain to see.

no waiting in line

Webmasters who are quick to act will enjoy a quick recovery to their pre-4/21 rankings. If a webmaster were to test a web page today, and have errors corrected and submitted for indexing by tomorrow, there is every indication that the web page would resume its previous position in search rankings.

the next step

All this is to say it is conceivable that those who act quickly to correct any errors found on their websites as a result of this update could enjoy the greatest benefit of all, as competitors' websites will undoubtedly fade into oblivion as a result of an unwillingness to act or a lack of qualified counsel.


David Lawrence is a Google-certified search engine marketer and search engine optimization professional. To contact David for more information or counseling, please use the form below.