Google Removes 'Mobile-Friendly' Tag in Search Rankings

Google has announced a couple of updates to its mobile search results: 1) it will remove the “mobile-friendly” tag on search results (just the tag, not actually altering the algorithm) and 2) it will be downgrading sites that show mobile interstitial ads.

The second one won’t go into effect until 2017, giving publishers and advertisers time to prepare for “Mobilegeddon 2: The Interstitial Purge.” Google has been ranking sites that are oriented toward mobile users higher in its algorithms since late 2014, and has been incrementally increasing pressure on sites to become more mobile-friendly.

The removal of the tag suggests that the search giant feels it is common knowledge that sites higher on the list will be friendlier to all devices.

Not all interstitials are created equal in Google’s eyes.

Those that contain legal requirements, cookie notifications, age verification, or a banner that uses a reasonable amount of screen space (not the whole screen) will not affect the rankings. Interstitials that block content either entirely or exist above-the-fold are going to get squeezed though.

Some will probably complain that Google is trying to mold the mobile Internet into its own image, and they might be right. But from here, a world with a faster, cleaner mobile Web, with more accelerated mobile pages, easier access to content and fewer interstitials seems like a much better alternative than the one we’ve got now.

This column was previously published in Moblog on August 24, 2016.

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