Mobilegeddon – it’s a word that was thrown around for weeks before Google’s April mobile algorithm change rolled out.
The search engine giant warned that its impact would be greater than Penguin or Panda. SEO communities buzzed about its potential effect on nearly half of Fortune 500 companies and 29 percent of the top 500 retail sites, which were not yet mobile friendly according to marketing firm Merkle/RKG.
However, now that we’re on the other side of the change, the effect on rankings appears to be minimal:
“It appears something did change around April 22nd, but the impact isn’t what any of us probably expected… No major sites are reporting hits yet.”
– Dr. Peter Myers, Marketing Scientist at Moz, which provides marketing analytics software for search
“Some actually began noticing shifts in the mobile results as early as Wednesday, April 22nd. But those shifts were not significant.”
– Barry Schwartz, Search Engine Land’s New Editor and Technologist
“So far, what many marketers dubbed “Mobilegeddon” has been more of a drizzle than the destructive tornado some were expecting. The early data I’ve analyzed for our clients — both mobile friendly and not
— does not indicate any major shift in the search results or organic traffic.” – Matt Hoff SEO Expert at digital marketing agency Seer Interactive
So does that mean all the hype was for nothing?
Absolutely not. While it may not be apparent at first glance, if you dig a little deeper you’ll discover that Google’s update really did have a noteworthy impact.
The Reported Effects of Mobilegeddon
Looking at the above reports – and many more like them – it almost seems like nothing happened on April 22. Or even over the next few weeks that followed, as the algorithm finished fully rolling out to all users and websites.
When asked why the update didn’t have as big of an impact as predicted, Google’s John Mueller answered that there were two reasons.
First, more sites went mobile-friendly than Google expected. In fact, 70% of page 1 results were already “mobile-friendly” prior to the algorithm update, according to Dr. Peter Meyers from Moz. That leaves only 30% of businesses to feel its impact.
But the other issue is the one that’s more significant: the change did impact a high number of different queries, but not in a way that caused certain sites to suddenly disappear from search results.
While it may not have totally wiped certain businesses off the board, as other updates did, it did impact a large number of businesses in a less noticeable way – one that may still impact their bottom line.
The Bottom Line for Mobile-Unfriendly Websites
So what does that mean for your business if your site is not already mobile-friendly?
- You lost traffic. Even if you didn’t notice your organic traffic drop, you may have suffered for specific queries – some of which may be significant to your business, and some of which may not. Conversely, your mobile-friendly competitors may have seen a boost for certain queries – and may continue to in the future if you don’t do something about it.
- Your mobile rank is different from your desktop rank. For the same query, your rank can be substantially lower on mobile than desktop. These differences existed before this algorithm update, but the change has only increased the already significant difference.
- It will only get worse. With the increasing popularity of mobile search, it makes sense that mobile-friendliness will only become more important. In fact, Google’s Gary Ilyes confirmed that they will continue to improve their mobile-friendly algorithms.
In short: you’re at a greater disadvantage than you were before the update.
Why It Matters: Mobile Is Dominating Search – and Commerce
Many businesses make the mistake of assuming that they don’t need mobile traffic, but consumers are spending more and more time searching the web on the go. In fact, Google has reported that they now see more search traffic through mobile than desktop.
That brings us to the next question: how many of those searches are driving sales for businesses? The answer: a lot.
Not surprisingly, ecommerce is a big winner when it comes to mobile. As of August 2014, Shopify reported that over half of ecommerce traffic came from mobile – 50.3% vs. 49.7%.
But brick-and-mortar businesses, both in retail and service industries, also see conversions. Consider these statistics:
- 55% of all mobile shoppers make a purchase when they search.
- 77% of purchases that start with a smartphone search actually conclude at a physical location – offline.
- 59% of consumers use Google each month to find a local business.
- 50% of mobile search queries have local intent (e.g. include words like “near me,” “in Ft. Lauderdale,” “around Tallahassee”).
Whether or not your traffic is directly affected by the algorithm update, it makes sense to cater to these users – or you could drive them into the arms of competitors who make their experience easier. 74% of mobile visitors will abandon a site if it takes longer than five seconds to load and 46% won’t return if a mobile site performs poorly.
Solutions: Become Mobile-Friendly Now
Unlike other algorithm updates, this one offers a clear-cut and straightforward solution: change to a mobile-friendly design for your website.
- WordPress plugins can offer a quick, cost-effective fix by creating a mobile-friendly site in a few clicks and just a few hours. The downside is that they typically offer reduced site content and also are less customizable, leaving your mobile site looking like everyone else’s mobile site. Also, these sites are typically separate from your regular site, which means that even though your mobile site won’t be penalized – your regular site still will.
- Altering or replacing your CMS template is another option. Every content management system – from WordPress to Drupal – offers templates that are already mobile-friendly. You can either alter the coding of your existing mobile-unfriendly template with the help of a designer, or you can simply migrate over to a new template that’s already mobile-friendly.
- Responsive and adaptive web design ensures that all of your content is available and looking its best across all devices. How? By adjusting your template based on the size of the screen that visitors are using. Remember, there are dozens of common screen sizes across smartphones, tablets, and desktops. Responsive design takes this into consideration by automatically adjusting based on the visitor’s device.
Once you’re done, you can confirm that Google is seeing your website as mobile-friendly by inputting your URL in their Mobile-Friendly Test Tool. If you pass there, you’re good in Google’s eyes for now.
What to Expect in the Future
Even if you’ve passed this mobile algorithm update unscathed, remember: Google isn’t done. Future updates will likely continue making mobile a priority – and penalizing sites that don’t. So revisiting your mobile strategy now is a good investment for the long-term.
Here are a few things we can expect in the future:
- Penalties for slow mobile loading time. Page speed has always been a ranking factor for Google, but mobile page speed isn’t – yet. You can help get ahead of Google’s next update and improve your users’ experience by aiming for a load time of less than a second on mobile.
- More data in the Knowledge Graph. The aim of the Hummingbird algorithm update was helping users ask questions – and Google’s Knowledge Graph aims to make answering them quicker and easier. You can provide instant answers by adding relevant structured data for inclusion in the Knowledge Graph to improve your profile.
- More optimization for mobile assistants. Google Now and other tools aim to make mobile use even more convenient. You can mark-up email notifications for appointments and reservations to integrate with mobile assistants, and we can expect increasing integration as these tools become more sophisticated and widespread.
- A move away from reductive mobile sites. In its infancy, the mantra was “less is more” for mobile sites. That’s no longer the case as mobile devices increasingly offer more speed and resources. People expect just as robust an experience on mobile as their desktop. There is already a penalty for redirects that moves users from a desktop subpage to their mobile homepage rather than the equivalent mobile subpage.
- More websites taking mobile seriously. Even though many of us have been advocating the importance of mobile for years, a lot of businesses put it on the back burner – and then had to rush to become compliant for this recent algorithm update. It pays to be proactive and stay on top of technology changes as they happen rather than playing catch up when Google decides to penalize those that don’t.
Whether your website has passed Mobilegeddon unscathed or you want to stay ahead of the game (and your competitors), it pays to take a deeper look at your mobile experience. You want to ensure that you are going above and beyond being simply mobile-friendly – to turn your visits into conversions, you should strive to provide the best possible mobile experience to your users.
White Rabbit has the expertise you need to take your website to the next level. Contact us today by filling out our convenient online form or giving us a call.