With Google’s new mobile-centric update, dubbed Mobilegeddon, we find ourselves asking the questions “What Can We Expect?” & “What Should We Be Doing to Prepare?”
With a rapidly approaching release date of April 21st, Google promised 2 seemingly minor changes that have potentially massive ramification. Firstly is their intent to offer a SEO ranking benefit to any website that meets their stringent requirements to be labeled as mobile friendly. Secondly is the injection of android apps, from the Google Play Store, in organic search results. If you haven’t seen it yet, here is what Google had to say about these changed in their announcement they had released on February 26th, 2015:
“ When it comes to search on mobile devices, users should get the most relevant and timely results, no matter if the information lives on mobile-friendly web pages or apps. As more people use mobile devices to access the internet, our algorithms have to adapt to these usage patterns. In the past, we’ve made updates to ensure a site is configured properly and viewable on modern devices. We’ve made it easier for users to find mobile-friendly web pages and we’ve introduced App Indexing to surface useful content from apps. ”
In a day and age where mobile has overtaken desktop usage in search, not positioning your website as ‘mobile friendly’ could potentially have devastating results to an online business. Although forecasting the impact of this update can be difficult as every vertical is different, when Google specifically calls out that there will be “significant impact to our search results“, it might be time to pay attention.
As mentioned above, this update comes in 2 flavors. Due to the increasing number of mobile queries now taxing their majestic search engine, Google will be favoring websites that pass the test of mobile functionality. In a mobile SEO panel at SMX West 2015, Gary Illyes advised that this update will function in real time & will effect your site on a page by page basis. Essentially meaning that this new inherent SEO benefit will effect each page individually as they are indexed and marked as ‘mobile friendly’ & that having a mobile functional homepage simply wont be enough to garner the full benefit offered by Google. It was also made very clear that there is no penalty associated with this update, so not catering to the mobile community wont see you stripped from Google, only that you wont receive the inevitable ranking boost that will along with being mobile friendly.
It is also important to note that in a couple of recent independent studies from Marketing Land & Shopify indicate that, depending on your specific industry, you may be missing out on more mobile traffic than you realize.
- Improved Emphasis on Mobile Functionality in Search
- Additional Google Resources
- Improved App Indexation & Integration in Organic Search
- Additional Google Resources
Secondly, Google has announced their intent to begin including mobile apps within organic search results. Initially this is a fairly small addition, as these results will only display for users that are signed in & will only show results for applications already installed on your phone. Also, because it is still somewhat in its infancy, it will only apply to apps currently within the Google Play Store with no apparent immediate intent to include external apps or anything from the Microsoft or Apple iTunes app stores.
We reached out to professionals in Web Development, SEO, & Marketing to see what they have to say about the pending update. Here are their predictions as to what we might expect to see as well as what you can do to prepare your online business for this paradigm shift in search:
Nowadays over 60% of internet users are using their mobile devices to do research, read news, watch videos and read emails & this growing number is not likely to stop any time soon. Many websites are stepping up their game by building mobile friendly versions to their sites & in turn Google is stepping up on this too, by awarding these businesses for their hard work. As you may know, on April 21st, Google is launching their controversial update which will be specific to mobile search. Is your business ready to get awarded with some additional traffic from Google?
You should optimize your website for mobile users & you better do it fast! I’m speaking from experience; recently we redeveloped our website with the intent of catering to mobile and tablet users by using a responsive WordPress design, which by the way Google loves! We observed over a 20% increase of total traffic, as well as 50% decrease in bounce rate & over a 200% increase in conversions from mobile & tablet users. These numbers speak for themselves!
Lead Developer & Programmer @ AirSmoke
Think for yourself – would you rather shop online where you need to constantly zoom-in and out or shop on website that is visually optimized, formatted, & completely functional for any device you may be using? The latter of course, so please don’t underestimate the power of the ever growing mobile community.
Writer, Copywriter, & Conversion Specialist @ donsturgill.com
Mobile is huge. That much is obvious. What many don’t realize, though, is that business on mobile hasn’t kept pace with the growth of mobile. Folks are browsing there, but not buying there. In my humble opinion, that is why Google is putting some weight into the situation. They want better sites that get better results. Moreover, they love it when they sell advertising. I don’t blame them.
Prediction: Many people will get caught with their pants down. Even with the advance notice, the resultant drop in the SERP will come as a surprise. Sites will eventually come around. Once the ability to buy on mobile get’s easier, sales will go up. Life will be good again. My own sites have been mobile friendly for years. I was with my wife at a medical appointment recently, though, and saw that her physician did not have a mobile-friendly site. I fixed it for him. Like starfish on the beach, I did my part in saving one small business from the wrath of Google. Go forth and pass the word. Sound the alarm. Be a hero to an entrepreneur. Help small business stay afloat. Or, you could always let them sink and start an AdWords agency.
I think it will be surprising in that the smaller companies, start ups and not-for-profits may find themselves the bigger winners as their websites will probably have been built on the cheap. In doing so, they will no doubt have used an quick and cost effective off-the-shelf solution such as WordPress, that are usually responsive/mobile-friendly by default.
It will be the larger, more complicated infrastructures build on bespoke frameworks, such as large e-commerce sites that will most probably feel the hit the most. These bigger corporations will have loads of layers of internal corporate red tape in order to make even the smallest of onsite changes, and so the creation of a mobile-friendly site will no doubt have not yet come to fruition for them. These guys will be the ones that need to prepare for the worst!
SEO Director at @ Epiphany Asia-Pacific
Founder & Managing Director @ Bring Digital
With Google explicitly confirming the date of an upcoming algorithm update, we’ve been keen to ensure all of our clients are fully prepared for all possible scenarios.
For us, this begins with assessing which of our clients have a site that doesn’t currently pass the mobile-friendly test. Given that this update will offer no ambiguity towards mobile-friendliness (you’re either mobile-ready or not), it’s made it easier to categories which clients we need to focus on. As with many agencies, this list tends to be centered around newer clients who have always had ‘mobile friendliness’ on their radar; but are now more likely to take action ahead of the update.
From here, we look at what percentage of organic mobile traffic they receive on a daily, weekly and monthly basis. A thorough technical mobile audit of all relevant sites then gives us a true indication of what it will take to bring each client up to the standard expected by Google.
From a client’s perspective, being told that they ‘need’ to be mobile-friendly often isn’t enough to make them jump at the opportunity. As such, and to reinforce the potential scale of the update, we’ve taken industry data on mobile click-through rates and current traffic data to calculate how much a client’s mobile traffic could be impacted if, for example, their average rankings were to fall by one, five and ten positions. This prediction data has been vital in communicating the importance of mobile-friendliness and has offered a real commercial summary of how much a client’s traffic could change.
At SMX in Munich, Zineb Ait Bahajji (Google Webmaster Trends Analyst) stated that this mobile-friendly algorithm update is “going to have a bigger effect than Penguin and Panda!” Now, I don’t know about you, but that statement is incredibly terrifying to me.
Yes, it will only effect mobile search results, but consider this: There was a 25% increase in consumers that looked for local information while they were out on their mobile phone from 2013 to 2014. This update was inevitable and will be huge; When I say huge, I don’t mean, we dropped 4 spots in our organic listings. I mean you’re website is going from great visibility to no visibility overnight.
I hope that my last sentence is enough to scare you straight… to your computer to check if your website is mobile-friendly. Let’s admit it, time is not on your side. All webmasters have until April 21st, 2015 to make their websites mobile optimized. That’s it; no extension or exceptions! Remember, it is our responsibility to give our users a great experience on our websites.
Search Engine Strategist @ Top Draw Inc
Founder & CEO @ New Possibilities Group, LLC
We have been preparing our web design and development clients for this change for the past year. It has become obvious for some time, since Google endorsed responsive design, that this change was coming. At this point, it is too late to quickly (and properly) make sure your site is 100% compatible if you haven’t focused on mobile earlier. However, it is a great time to begin planning for the future and determining how your company will meet their standards.
At this point, our belief is that this will affect mobile search primarily, though, you can never tell with Google how severe the changes will affect your traffic. What we do know is that in the past, the algorithm changes that were the most severe were not even announced. In this case, they have given us plenty of warning, so unprepared site owners could be in for a shock on 4/21.
So first off, it is important to note that the changes to Google’s handling of mobile websites only effects mobile searchers, so if you’re doing a search on a desktop computer this will have zero impact on what you see. That said, and this is huge for Google to do, you’re going to start to see favored results if you’re searching from a phone. Website owners are scrambling to update their websites to be mobile friendly, on our end only one client had an older website that we did not build but all of our websites are done 100% responsive. The exception to that was our own site, so unless we want to drop from our #1 spot when searched on a phone, we need to have a mobile friendly website in place by that April 21st deadline.
No one outside of Google yet knows how quickly the changes will be seen, it could be that day, it could take weeks before Google fully identifies all the mobile-friendly and non-mobile-friendly websites.
Founder & CEO @ Imagine Freedom
It would be a good idea to be 100% ready by the April 21st deadline so you’re not taking any chances. This is a bold move by Google and for the first time they’re going to decide how the web should be, fortunately for us the change is a good one as now doing a search on a phone will return much more mobile appropriate results.
We see about 30-60% of traffic for our clients come from mobile, varying by industry, so this is a major opportunity for websites that are not currently ranking incredibly well to get the drop on their competitors by beating them to the mobile-friendly table.
Founder & CEO @ WompMobile Inc.
It’s been said that the April 21st algorithm change will be bigger than Panda or Penguin, two previous algorithm changes that affected over 12% and 4% of search results, respectively.
A site that is not mobile friendly will already be seeing sub-par mobile conversion rates due to a user’s inability to easily navigate the site. When they are dropped from mobile search or rank so low as not to be found, their mobile conversion rates will take a massive hit.
We have eCommerce clients with up to 80% mobile traffic; to have an ineffective mobile presence would be detrimental to such a business’ bottom line — to fall from Google’s mobile search would be completely devastating.
Over 50% of internet traffic today comes from mobile devices. Sites that cease to show in mobile search results after April 21st will face losing over half of their daily visitors. That is a serious consideration for non-mobile sites and not to be taken lightly.
As a mobile provider, we’ve known for years that mobile needs to be an investment – not an afterthought – of any development plan and while it’s a shame that it takes this push from Google for people to see that, it’s also a really great message that mobile is extremely important. It’s not “the future”, it’s NOW.
Although the impact is still under debate, it is very apparent that marketers & business owners alike are in for a bit of a wild ride. The common conception is that being prepared is better than simply leaving mobile functionality for another day. Ensuring you are prepared to cater to and engage the mobile community will only become more prevalent as we move forward. April 21st will soon be upon us, is your website ready for what Google and the future of organic search has in store?
If your interested in learning more, please check out our comprehensive guide on mobile functionality. Comprised of update deep-dives, walkthroughs on how to qualify your local traffic, and development tips on how you can put your best mobile foot forward in 2015!
- The Ultimate Guide to Mobile Functionality
- How to Be Mobile Friendly
- Learn More