Google: Rankings Drop After Mobile Usability Fail?

Google: Rankings Drop After Mobile Usability Fail?

John Mueller of Google explains why correcting a flagged issue in the search console does not help the site regain search visibility.

Google’s John Mueller responded to the Reddit SEO discussion, which dropped the ranking of healthcare-related websites shortly after the search console warning about mobile usability.

The two events were found to be relevant due to the timing of the rank decline immediately after the search console issued an alert about a mobile usability issue.

He was frustrated because he fixed the issue and checked for the fix through the Google search console, but the ranking change did not go back.

These are the salient details:

“Around Aug. 2022, I noticed that Google Search Console was saying ALL of our pages were now failing Mobile Usability standards. I had a developer “fix” the pages…

…I resubmitted the sitemap & asked Google to “Validate” all of my fixes on Oct. 25, 2022. It has been 15 days with no movement.”

In the Reddit discussion, John Mueller observed that in his opinion the mobile usability issues were not related to the rank decline

Mueller wrote:

“I’ll go out on a limb and say the reason for rankings changing has nothing to do with this.

I’d read the quality raters guidelines and the content Google has on the recent updates for some thoughts, especially for medical content like that.”

This is a good example of why the most obvious reason something happens is not always correct, but the most obvious.

The obvious is not the same, although it may seem accurate or inaccurate.

When diagnosing an issue it is important to keep an open mind about the cause and not stop diagnosing the issue in the first, clearer statement.

John dismissed the mobile usability issue as serious enough to impact the ranking.

His answer suggested that significant content quality issues are a likely reason for a ranking change, especially if changes occur at almost the same time as algorithm updates.

The Google Evaluator Guidelines are a guide for assessing site quality in an objective way without subjective thoughts on what makes up the quality of the site.

It makes sense for Mueller to suggest that Redditor should read the evaluator’s instructions to ensure that the description of the item that defines site quality matches that of the site.

Coincidentally, Google recently published a new document to help publishers understand what Google considers to be ranked content.

The document name is Create usefully and trusted people first. The document contains sections related to this issue, E-a-T, and Quality Evaluator guidelines.

Google’s Help pages explain that web pages use a number of algorithms to understand whether your money your Life pages are professional, authoritative, and trustworthy, particularly in medical subjects.

This section of the documentation explains why the quality raters guidelines information is important:

“…our systems give even more weight to content that aligns with strong E-A-T for topics that could significantly impact the health, financial stability, or safety of people, or the welfare or well-being of society.

We call these “Your Money or Your Life” topics, or YMYL for short.”

Validation of the search console modification is usually information provided

Mueller then explained the Search Console fix validation and what it means.

He continued his answer:

“For indexing issues, “validate fix” helps to speed up recrawling.

For everything else, it’s more about giving you information on what’s happening, to let you know if your changes had any effect.

There’s no “the website fixed it, let’s release the hand brake” effect from this, it’s really primarily for you: you said it was good now, and here is what Google found.”

YMYL medical content

The person who asked the question told Mueller that most of the website content was written by a physician.

Next, mention how to create content that conveys expertise, authority, and credibility.

This is what they shared:

“I’ve tried to really write blog articles & even marketing pages that have a satisfying answer above the fold, but then explain the details after.

Pretty much everything a person would do if they were legit trying to get an answer across – which is also what you read to be “EAT” best practices.


They lamented that competitors with old content beat them in the rankings.

Diagnosing ranking problems is sometimes more than just pulling your belly and staring at your site.

It may be useful to study the competitive site in detail to understand what strengths can improve search visibility.

After the update, Google may appear to “reward” the site where this or that is, such as mobile usability, FAQs, etc.

However, this is not how the search algorithm actually works.

The search algorithm simply tries to understand three things:

  • What the search terms mean
  • What the web page means
  • Site quality

Therefore, the improvement in the algorithm may be one or all three (perhaps all three) improvements.

And that’s where John Mueller’s encouragement to read the Google Search Quality Raters Guidelines (PDF) comes in.

It may also be helpful to read Google’s fantastic Search Quality Raters Guidelines Overview (PDF) because it’s shorter and easier to understand.



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