Content Marketing Blog

Mobile friendliness tops Google search factors to watch in 2016 [MOZ SURVEY]

Mobile friendliness is the top search factor to watch over the next 12 months, according to 150 industry experts who took part in a major new survey.

Members of the search community responding to the bi-annual MOZ Search Engine Ranking Correlation Study and Expert Survey 2015 put mobile compatibility ahead of other important metrics likely to have a bigger influence on search engine results.

The mobile friendly update is arguably Google’s most important algorithm adjustment so far this year.

Since the update was rolled out in April, sites that fail Google’s mobile friendly test have seen their rankings on mobile devices take a big hit.


Dubbed “Mobilegeddon” ahead of its release, Google said the mobile friendly update would be bigger than Panda and Penguin. An analysis of 25,000 leading sites suggested that up to 40 per cent would be adversely affected.

An overwhelming 88 per cent of respondents to the MOZ survey expected mobile friendly to have a more noticeable impact on search over the next 12 months, putting it ahead of the analysis of a page or site’s perceived value (81 per cent); the quality or quantity of instant answers provided by SERPs (79 per cent); and usage data, such as clickthrough and dwell time (67 per cent).

Readability, usability and design (67 per cent); structured data (65 per cent); and association with popular mobile apps (64 per cent) were also predicted to play a more important role in where pages rank in search.

Respondents expected the effectiveness of paid links and the influence of anchor text to have less bearing on search results. Factors likely to remain the same included internal links, domain authority and social signals.

Panda 4.2

The MOZ survey comes as Google continues the steady roll out of its latest Panda update. Panda 4.2 is part of Google’s ongoing effort to improve the standard of the pages it returns in search. The aim is to reward sites that provide a genuinely superior experience for users.

This means that more in-depth, higher quality editorial content; richer media, such as graphics and video; and user-friendly design will have an increasingly important role to play in really effective search campaigns.

The shift that has taken place in content marketing towards quality over quantity has been largely driven by Google’s Panda updates. As Google develops more reliable quality metrics content marketing strategies will continue to move in that direction.


As well as canvassing search experts, MOZ also crunched the data and looked at the factors with the strongest correlation to good search performance.

One of the most interesting findings from the correlation study was the declining relevance of keywords. Since Hummingbird, the role of keywords in building an effective content strategy has changed significantly.

Primary keywords are still extremely valuable when it comes to providing direction for the content you create, but the quality and relevance of that content is now more important than the actual presence of those keywords.

“We continue to see lower correlations between on-page keyword use and rankings,” Cyrus Shepard, director of audience at MOZ, said in a blog post.

“This could likely be because Google is smarter about what pages mean (through related keywords, synonyms, close variants, and entities) without relying on exact keyword phrases.”

Since Hummingbird, Google is looking at all the words in a search query rather than just a few keywords. It is also returning results based on the assumed meaning behind queries, which makes the particular words and phrases used less important.

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Adam Barber
Adam Barber About the author

Adam is one of Castleford's founders and remains actively involved in the day-to-day running of the business. He started out as a writer and still contributes regularly to our blog, covering SEO, CRO, social media and digital strategy.

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