1. What is ‘Mobilegeddon’?
Google announced in February that we could expect a mobile-centric algorithm update in April. It was dubbed ‘mobilegeddon’, as the search engine now includes ‘mobile-friendliness’ as a ranking factor and will label websites that are ‘mobile-friendly’ on the mobile results pages. Websites that are not mobile-friendly could see their search result rankings drop significantly. Desktop and tablet searches are not affected, however as mobile search has now overtaken desktop search it is now more important than ever to get your mobile search right.
2. What does it mean to be ‘mobile-friendly’?
Google will judge sites based on and how well they function and good they look on a mobile. Things to avoid include:
- software that doesn't work on most mobile devices (such as Flash)
- text that isn't legible without zooming
- content that falls off the edge of the screen
- links too close to click without zooming
- unplayable content
- large image files
- slow load times
- faulty redirects
3. What has actually happened since April 21?
Google did say that this would be more of an ‘evolution’ than an ‘earthquake’; the full effects of mobilegeddon are not yet known. Although the initial roll-out is now complete (as of May 1st), the full re-indexing of sites has not been completed. It may still be a few more weeks before we see how the new algorithm is impacting natural rankings, mobile traffic and online sales.
4. Why should you care?
Google may change their algorithm up to 600 times in a year with little fanfare, but the last major change, in 2011, sent some companies into financial ruin. Google controls two thirds of the US search market and around 90% global search.
While this update won’t affect desktop or tablet searches, that is little comfort to savvy website owners as so far this year 60% of searches have come from mobile devices. A 2014 study found that 78% of mobile phone searches for local business information result in a purchase. According to Shopify around 53% of ecommerce activity comes from mobile; so it’s not just about pleasing Google, it’s about reaching your consumers in the right place.
5. What should you do?
Don't panic too much if you are one of the many companies that isn't yet mobile friendly (most of the Fortune 500 companies aren't); Google judges sites on a range of criteria, so if your mobile usability is not quite upt to scratch it doesn’t mean your sites rankings will drop instantly. Google is updating their data all the time and on a page-by-page basis so focus on your homepage and most popular content first. Do keep an eye on Google Analytics to see what effects the changes have on your site's performance.
Whether you decide to go for a responsive website design or separate mobile site Google has provided a useful guide. It’s all about continually testing your site for issues. The good news is that most of the changes inherently improve usability; in the long run mobilegeddon won’t just mean ticking the ‘mobile-friendly’ box: the competitive advantage will be with the website owners who consistently offer the best mobile experience to their customers.
If you would like help optimsing your site for mobile or the mobile search engine results pages please get in touch.