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PHOTO COURTESY OF MAKINGDIFFERENT.COM
SAN FRANCISCO (AP) — Google is about to
change the way its influential search engine
recommends websites on smartphones in a
shift that’s expected to sway where millions of
people shop, eat and find information.
The revised formula, released this month,
will favor websites that Google defines as “mo-
bile-friendly.” Websites that don’t fi t the de-
scription will be demoted in Google’s search
results on smartphones while those meeting
the criteria will be more likely to appear at the
top of the rankings — a prized position that
can translate into more visitors and money.
Although Google’s new formula won’t af-
fect searches on desktop and laptop comput-
ers, it will have a huge influence on how and
where people spend their money, given that
more people are relying on their smartphones
to compare products in stores and look for
restaurants. That’s why Google’s new rating
system is being billed by some search experts
“Some sites are going to be in for a big sur-
prise when they fi nd a drastic change in the
amount of people visiting them from mobile
devices,” said Itai Sadan, CEO of website-
building service Duda.
It’s probably the most significant change
that Google Inc. has ever made to its mobile
search rankings, according to Matt McGee,
editor-in-chief for Search Engine Land, a trade
publication that follows every tweak that the
company makes to its closely guarded algo-
Here are a few things to know about what’s
happening and why Google is doing it.
Making mobile friends
To stay in Google’s good graces, websites
must be designed so they load quickly on mo-
bile devices. Content must also be easily ac-
cessible by scrolling up and down — without
having to also swipe to the left or right. It also
helps if all buttons for making purchases or
taking other actions on the website can be
easily seen and touched on smaller screens.
If a website has been designed only with
PC users in mind, the graphics take longer to
load on smartphones and the columns of text
don’t all fi t on the smaller screens, to the ag-
gravation of someone trying to read it.
Google has been urging websites to cater
to mobile devices for years, mainly because
that is where people are increasingly search-
ing for information.
The number of mobile searches in the
United States is rising by about five percent
while inquiries on PCs are dipping slightly, ac-
cording to research fi rm comScore Inc. In the
fi nal three months of last year, 29 percent of
all U.S. search requests — about 18.5 billion —
were made on mobile devices, comScore esti-
mated. Google processes the bulk of searches
two-thirds in the United States and even
more in many other countries.
Bracing for change
To minimize complaints, the company
disclosed its plans nearly two months ago. It
also created a step-by -step guide and a tool
to test compliance with the new standards.
Google has faced an uproar over past chang-
es to its search formula. Two of the bigger re-
visions, done in 2011 and 2012, focused on
an attempt to weed out misleading websites
and other digital rubbish. Although that goal
sounds reasonable, many websites still com-
plained that Google’s changes unfairly demot-
ed them in the rankings, making their content
more difficult to find.
Still caught off guard
While most major merchants and big com-
panies already have websites likely to meet
Google’s mobile standard, the new formula
threatens to hurt millions of small businesses
that haven’t had the money or incentive to
adapt their sites for smartphones.
“A lot of small sites haven’t really had a
reason to be mobile friendly until now, and
it’s not going to be easy for them to make the
changes,” McGee said.
Burying helpful content
Google’s search formula weighs a variety
of factors to determine the rankings of its
results. One of the most important consider-
ations has always been whether a site con-
tains the most pertinent information sought
by a search request.
But new pecking order in Google’s mobile
search may relegate some sites to the back
pages of the search results, even if their
content is more relevant to a search request
than other sites that happen to be easier to
access on smartphones.
That w ill be an unfortunate consequence,
but also justifiable because a person might
not even bother to look at sites that take
a long time to open or difficult to read
on mobile devices, Gartner analyst Whit
“Availability is part of relevancy,” An-
drews said. “A lot of people aren’t going to
think something is relevant if they can’t get
it to appear on their iPhone.”
Google shaking up search recommendations
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