21 Jan The longer term Impact of Mobilegeddon

What was the impact of Mobilegeddon?

I first heard the term “mobilegeddon” coined back in March last year. Almost as soon as it was uttered, it got marketers all in a flap. But would it be as catastrophic as the name oh-so-subtly implied? This is the quote, from Google’s Webmaster Central Blog, that started the furore:

“Starting April 21, we will be expanding our use of mobile-friendliness as a ranking signal. This change will affect mobile searches in all languages worldwide and will have a significant impact in our search results”.

So, mobile friendliness is becoming more important. What’s the problem? The panic arose from the fact that a lot of websites and landing pages were not, at the time, optimised for mobile. But really, we should have seen it coming. Google first declared itself a “mobile-first” company back in 2010.

So, did Mobilegeddon ring the death knell for all companies without a mobile optimised website? Were they banished from the SERPs completely? Well, not exactly. But that isn’t to say that Mobilegeddon hasn’t had an effect. Let’s have a look at exactly what that effect has been in a bit more detail.

Where did Mobilegeddon come from?

To examine the impact that this algorithm change has had, we need to have a look at what it was designed to do in the first place.

One of the core aims of Google, and of search engines in general, is to provide a seamless browsing experience for its users. Slow loading pages that require fiddly navigation and pinching and scrolling to read this information just don’t make the cut in Google’s eyes. Mobilegeddon was designed to push these results down in the SERPs by placing more emphasis on this mobile-friendliness as a ranking signal. Results which are mobile optimised would be prioritised.

The message came through loud and clear: ignore the warning, and you’ll be pushed off the SERPs. This could be potentially catastrophic for many businesses.

The result? Non-mobile sites are slipping, but this isn’t always consistent

As with any algorithm change, it takes a good few weeks for the dust to settle and for the impact to make itself known. Within a month of Mobilegeddon hitting, Marketing Land found that some sites were losing up to 35% of their mobile search rankings in the top three positions.

However, another study by Stone Temple Consulting found that while nearly 50% of non-mobile friendly URLS had dropped in rank, in a lot of cases they had simply been replaced by new, equally non-mobile friendly URLs. Confusing as this is, it can be attributed to the following three factors according to Eric Enge, the author of the analysis:

  • The Search Quality Update (an algorithm, released back in May, which changed how the quality of search results was assessed).
  • Other algorithm tweaks
  • A general turnover that frequently occurs in search results

Enge ultimately attributed the baffling results to Google basically testing things out and fine-tuning the Mobilegeddon algorithm change. Once they feel they’ve hit the nail on the head, they’ll ramp up efforts and the impact is likely to be more significant.

After the update …

Three months after the update, Moovweb conducted and published a study in which they had examined more than 1000 keywords. The study found that 83% of the time, the top result was mobile-friendly. 81% of the time, the top three results were mobile-friendly. 77% of the time, the top then were all mobile-friendly. Looks like the algorithm stepped up a gear.

However, it’s clear that there is still a way to go. For many keywords, there just aren’t enough mobile-friendly results to fill even the first page.

What about AdWords?

Mobilegeddon has also had an effect when it comes to AdWords. Declining organic traffic in the wake of the algorithm update meant that many marketers started rapidly buying more mobile ads. Sites seeing decreasing organic traffic have raised their total CPC by 16% in the last year, according to an Adobe Digital Index Report.

Mobile-friendliness has also now been taken into account when establishing Quality Score. This has meant that the marketers with the most mobile-friendly landing pages are being rewarded with higher click-through rates. This is a crucial point. Mobile usage certainly shows no signs of slowing down – if your marketing campaign doesn’t cater for mobile, you’re definitely going to lose out. Mobile-friendliness is already proving itself as a major way to keep overall campaign costs down.

Are there more Google mobile updates on the way?

Knowing Google, the answer is: probably. In fact, they recently unveiled a new set of features designed to improve mobile conversions (which, as a marketer, you’ll know are currently pretty low – around half of desktop).

Google is aiming to change this, firstly with how products are presented on mobile devices. A “buy now” button is now included on mobile product search results. This takes you to a Google micro-site, designed to look like the retailer you’re buying from. It’s not being widely used yet, but early whispers are of success. It can seen as just further proof of Google’s “mobile-first” attitude – you should be doing everything you can to give mobile users a better experience. The happier you are, the more sales you’ll get. Everyone’s a winner!

How can I make sure my website is up to scratch?

Unlike with their other, more unexpected algorithm updates, Google have actually provided a roadmap as to how to get your site where it needs to be in terms of mobile-friendliness. Check out this guide on the Google Developers website (https://developers.google.com/webmasters/mobile-sites/) to make sure you’re compliant. You can even take a mobile-friendliness test and view their SEO for mobile guide. But remember, it’s not all about Google. Their main aim is to keep users happy, so this should be yours, too.

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