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I sat down with Google’s Gary Illyes at SMX Sydney 2015 for a quick Q & A.
Question: Why didn’t we see a bigger effect in search results following the April 21 mobile friendly update?
Gary Illyes: The term ‘mobilegeddon’, coined after it was suggested the effect of the mobile friendly would be bigger than Penguin and Panda combined, was misunderstood by the SEO community and press. To clarify, the size of the impact was bigger only in terms of number/volume of websites affected.
However, the size of the impact per website was much smaller.
Question: Will usability as a factor ever trump content?
Gary Illyes: No, content relevancy will always be important. It is unlikely, for example, that Google would not rank a website that has poor mobile usability for a search that includes the website’s brand name. User experience will never be more important than content.
Question: Will more factors of mobile usability be further added to the algorithm?
Gary Illyes: Yes, we would like to further refine ranking factors to promote better mobile usability. One example is mobile page speed load which is not currently assessed as a seperate mobile usability factor. It is a very poor user experience to serve a large, bloated page that takes a long time to load on a mobile device.
I also consider mobile interstitials an element that creates a poor mobile user experience and is likely to be considered negatively in future updates.
We’ve also found from testing that users spend less time on mobile – my time on a mobile device is more expensive than desktop.
Question: Does that mean we should serve different content according to the device? For example, shorter form content on mobile compared to desktop?
Gary Illyes: That is an interesting question and one that has not been fully considered. It could be something we look at in the future.
Question: With the difference between large sized mobiles and phablets such as the iPhone 6 Plus versus the iPad mini being relatively small, where does Google draw the line between device optimisation?
Gary Illyes: The algorithm considers tablets as desktop screens – our preference is that the desktop version should render on a tablet, including small ones.