Google Algorithm Weather Report: March 2015

Welcome to Studio-40’s March 2015 Google Algorithm Report. This is your monthly digest of Google algorithm related news from the past few weeks. This month we’re looking at the latest mobile ranking news, Panda news, Penguin news, Google’s stance on doorway pages, and a potential algorithm update. Without further ado, let’s get started.

Slow Labels. (25th February)

Google mobile search screenshot showing 'Slow' warning.

On 25th February, a Googler noticed a brand new “Slow” label in mobile SERPs. Ironically these labels were only on two Google-owned sites: ‘Scholar’ and ‘YouTube’, but it’s a clear sign of the direction mobile SERPs are taking, and we fully expect to see page speed and responsiveness playing a huge role in mobile ranking factors.

Mystery Update- Studio-40’s findings (4th March)

On the 4th March, we at Studio-40 released a blog post with our findings surrounding the ‘February 5th Mystery Update’ in the lack of other news around the Google Algorithm update. Have a read through and let us know of your thoughts in the comments.

Mobile Factors – real-time and page-by-page (5th March)

On the 5th March, Google stated that the new mobile-friendly ranking factors would run in real time, and on a page by page basis. What this means is that as soon as you make the changes to your site that the new algorithm needs, you should expect to see immediate gains to the individual pages that you have fixed. These new ranking factors will come into effect on the 21st April, marking the first time that Google has given a deadline surrounding an algorithm change.

Panda – no update since October (11th March)

On the 11th March, Google admitted that Panda has not been updated since October last year, SEO’s and webmasters around the globe have been waiting for a Panda refresh to hopefully regain the traffic they lost after being hit with the algorithm. Currently we are still waiting for more news, but this is the most we’ve heard about it in a long time.

Penguin – not monthly or real time (12th March)

On the 12th March, Google stated that the Penguin algorithm is still not running regularly or monthly, despite news that it would indeed become more algorithmic. As it stands we are still waiting for more Penguin news, but this is the most we’ve heard about it for a long time.

Panda clarification (13th March)

In a Google+ thread, a Google representative stated that they will clarify what is currently happening with the Panda algorithm due to widespread confusion over whether the algorithm now runs in real time, or hasn’t been updated at all in over four months. We’re keeping our eyes on this one as much as possible.

Update on doorway pages (16th March)

Google has addressed doorway pages in an official Webmaster Central blog post stating that they are working on ranking changes for these types of pages. A doorway page is one that’s considered being built purely for the purpose of gaming the search results. Google explain it perfectly well here:

Potential algorithm update (20th March)

Algoroo weather report bar graph

Webmasters around the globe have noticed shifts in their website’s SERP positions this week, and trackers such as Mozcast and Algoroo have reported higher-than-usual fluctuations every day since around the 16th March. Could this potentially be an upcoming algorithm update? We’re keeping our eyes on this one, so stay tuned.

Google – Mobile Ranking Documentation (23rd March)

Google mobile search results notice

As well as warning webmasters about the impending mobile ranking update via Webmaster Tools, Google has published documentation on the most common mistakes webmasters make when transitioning their site to be mobile friendly, technical advice was also posted to the Webmaster Help forums about making a static web page responsive and mobile friendly, and they have even added a banner to the Google Webmaster Blog reminding webmasters of the upcoming ranking changes.

We recommend any webmaster who is concerned about the upcoming update to read through the new documentation provided by Google, and also Studio-40’s own ‘Mobile Optimization Checklist’ post.

Studio-40’s ‘Mobile Optimization Checklist

Avoid Common Mistakes on Mobile Websites

Google confirms the Mobile Friendly algorithm is either on or off, there are no degrees of friendliness. (25th March)

At the 47:10 mark of this Google hangout video, a Google representative confirms that the mobile algorithm either sees your website as mobile friendly, or it doesn’t – there is no middle ground or percentage rating to tell you how close you are to becoming mobile friendly. The algorithm is based on criteria such as small font sizes, tap targets / links being too close together, readable content and your viewpoint. If your website has all of this, or it has a mobile-friendly label already, your website will gain from the upcoming change, if it hasn’t then you will be penalised in mobile SERPs. They also mentioned that the algorithm will roll out over a few days to a week, meaning you may not see any changes instantly.

This post was written by Andrew Lambert

This post was written by Andrew Lambert

Off-Page / Content Team

Part of our busy content marketing and creative team. Andrew also contributes to our technical HTML SEO auditing services.

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