Google has sent warning notifications to non-mobile-friendly websites en masse, adding weight to theories that the search giant is preparing a new mobile ranking algorithm.

The Webmaster Tools notifications, reported by Search Engine Land, mark the latest effort by Google to encourage better mobile usability – a topic it has been talking about since at least June 2013.

This is the clearest sign yet that Google is preparing to launch a new algorithm, after it began labeling mobile-friendly sites in mobile SERPs in November. In its blog post announcing the labels, Google confirmed it was “experimenting with using the mobile-friendly [labelling] criteria as a ranking signal.”

Here’s a run-down of some of the weightiest evidence so far:

  • In June 2013, Google published a blog post saying “we plan to roll out several ranking changes in the near future that address sites that are misconfigured for smartphone users.”
  • In May 2014, Google demonstrated its Googlebots could ‘fetch and render’ a website as a mobile user sees it.
  • Also in May, it added mobile optimisation tips to its PageSpeed Insights tool.
  • In July, it announced it would be flagging flash-heavy (and thus mobile-unfriendly) sites in mobile SERPs.
  • In October, it gave the following statement to Search Engine Land: “Because at Google we are aiming to provide a great user experience on any device, we’re making a big push to ensure the search results we deliver reflect this principle.”
  • October also saw tests of Google’s ‘mobile-unfriendly’ labels in mobile SERPs.
  • In November, Google officially launched a ‘mobile-friendly’ label to signal to mobile users that a site would provide a good user experience, and confirmed it was experimenting with using the labelling criteria as a ranking factor.

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    About the author:

    Oliver Pyper is senior online copywriter at ClickThrough Marketing. He writes on-page content, blogs, press releases and loads of other bits and pieces too numerous and brilliant to mention. He’s also responsible for Kate Bush: The Musical and a series of videos depicting a young man’s search for energy drinks in New York City. Drop him a line if you want to talk content solutions or Kate Bush.