Google, Mobile and Apps: I'm tired

Ian Lurie

It used to be that, when Google announced yet another tweak to their algorithm, I rubbed my hands with anticipation. Now, it just makes me tired.

Yesterday, Google announced that mobile-readiness is now a worldwide ranking signal, and that indexable apps will influence personal search rankings.

I should be excited.

I’m just tired. Not because I’m over 40. Not because I’m annoyed at Google. I’m tired because I know that every SEO on the planet will now scramble to create a half-baked Android app, littered with links, an effort to rank.

Somewhere at Google, some engineers have a betting pool: If they said “servers in free fall will improve rankings,” how many SEOs would fling hardware off cliffs?

Take a pill, people. Before you jump on the crap app bandwagon, how about taking care of some basic stuff:

  1. Fix infrastructure issues that kill visibility
  2. Fix existing broken links that are costing authority
  3. Make your site not suck
  4. Exploit every marketing channel to its fullest
  5. And yes, improve the mobile experience

Yes, this announcement is important. Take indexable apps seriously. Take mobile seriously.

But you should have taken them seriously years ago. None of this is exactly a news flash.

Hopefully, huge mobile user growth already grabbed your attention.

Hopefully, building a good, relevant app has always made sense.

But investing in apps and mobile for the sake of rankings is dangerous. Learn from other rankings.

  • Keywords in content help. Stuffing keywords gets you sat on by overweight pandas.
  • Links are a signal. Building crappy links gets you savaged by feral penguins. At best, it was a waste of money.
  • Social media may be a signal. Spamming it kills your brand.
  • Content helps. Going to Fiverr and paying $5 for 250-word essays at a 3rd-grade writing level brings back those pandas.

The list goes on. But they’re risky. If you want a company that’ll live longer than the latest trendy SEO tactic, do this stuff for the right reason.

Here’s a crazy idea: Do an actual cost-benefits analysis of building an app. Understand how an app will actually influence rankings, because no one knows yet.

This rant brought to you by everyone who bought SSL certificates an hour after Google announced that.

Ian Lurie

Ian Lurie is the founder of Portent. He's been a digital marketer since the days of AOL and Compuserve (that's more than 25 years, if you're counting). Ian's recorded training for, writes regularly for the Portent Blog and has been published on AllThingsD, Smashing Magazine, and TechCrunch. Ian speaks at conferences around the world, including SearchLove, MozCon, Seattle Interactive Conference and ad:Tech. He has published several books about business and marketing: One Trick Ponies Get Shot, available on Kindle, The Web Marketing All-In-One Desk Reference for Dummies, and Conversation Marketing. Ian is now an independent consultant and continues to work with the Portent team, training the agency group on all things digital. You can find him at

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  1. Pretty sure I gave up with listening to Google and it’s new updates a while back. I think the biggest factor for me is that positive signals get turned into some sort of weapon against you within a few months of announcement. I’d call it a Trojan horse of sorts, we let Google in and then they dismantle everything when the time is right.

  2. Believe it or not, we were just discussing this this morning here at Disney. Not the low-quality app-link-spam idea, but the thought that we could leverage app content/links to boost lower-ranking sites. I’d call that Penguin-bait!
    In any case, good rant. Hope you feel better.

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