Google's new search algorithm, which has been dubbed 'Mobilegeddon', was feared to bring ruin to businesses without a mobile-optimised site.

One month on, what's actually changed?

Google’s April 21st roll out of a new algorithm for mobile searches had many fearing the worst for their painstakingly crafted SEO.

If the headlines were to be believed, Mobilegeddon would bring ruin to businesses without a mobile-optimised site - perhaps waiting to see if this whole smart phone thing would really catch on - despite Google’s claims that 50% of all online searches now take place on a mobile device. 

Google’s Zineb Ait Bahajji fanned businesses’ fears by claiming the new algorithm’s impact on traffic would be even bigger than previous updates Penguin and Panda.

That’s no small potatoes given Panda affected 12% of all Google queries made in English, as Ubisan's Colin Hardie observed

One month on, were all the dramatics warranted?  Has the internet changed for the greater good? Does your current website get a big thumbs up from Google’s mobile bods?  If not, how do you get it over the line with minimal fuss?

Websites sent to mobile Coventry

Despite Google giving the internet a polite heads-up in February that the new algorithm was on its way, an estimated 10% of the world’s most visited websites failed the search engine’s mobile-friendly test post-April 21.

According to TFM&A’s Lara Doyle, Wikipedia, Reddit, and the BBC were amongst those deemed not mobile friendly. Outside of the top 100, other surprising fails included easyJet, MOZ and Magento.

Some 44% of Fortune 500 companies’ websites also missed the mark, TechCrunch reported shortly before the Mobilegeddon deadline.

But that’s nothing compared to the smaller fish in the business pond: a 2014 study by local directory and advertising provider Hibu found that fewer than 10% of SMBs had a mobile-optimised website.

The week after D-Day, Searchmetrics named the biggest Stateside winners and losers in the mobile rankings game.

Reddit.com, NBCSports.com, and Youngmoney.com’s mobile SEO visibility dived 27%, 28% and 76% respectively.

At the other end of the scale, TVtropes.org, Foreignaffairs.com, and GQ.com gained mobile SEO visibility to the tune of 420%, 771% and 67% respectively.

Why mobile search matters to businesses

More than two-thirds of UK adults are smartphone owners. The device’s staggering adoption is transforming the way we consume content and shop online. 

Websites that didn’t attempt to improve their mobile friendliness before April 21 are likely to have seen a drop in mobile-specific rankings. This in turn will lead to a decline in traffic which is ultimately bad news for revenue.

Then there’s user experience. As a rule, responsive web design creates an optimal cross-device viewing experience. Google is a fan because it’s straightforward to implement and compatible with ‘search spiders’ eager to index your content.

Is your business’ marketing mix increasingly weighted towards social media?  People using these platforms to access information typically do so on mobile devices, not desktop computers. 

Ecommerce businesses take note: consumers searching via a mobile device are also more results- focused than those on a desktop computer, which can mean quicker purchase decisions.

In fact, a recent study by iAquire and SurveyMonkey found that 70% of mobile searches lead to action on websites within one hour. 

The same study showed that 40% of people will choose another website if yours isn’t mobile-friendly.

Making your site mobile friendly

First things first, is your current website deemed by the great Google to be mobile-friendly? Take the test here.

If indeed it turns out that certain pages within your website don’t make Google happy, here’s what you need to do:

  1. Think user-friendly, not just eye-catching. A common mistake many businesses make is to think their job’s done once website pages fit on different devices.  

    In reality, Google wants to make mobile websites easier to use, not just more attractive.

  2. Be generous with your tap areas. Those of us with sausage fingers implore you, please don’t be stingy with any tap-to-navigate buttons.  

    Remember that many of your users are navigating your website with one hand, making zooming and scrolling tricky.  

    Many savvy retailers are using the double tap feature to expand product shots. Smashed together buttons are also a Google pet peeve.

     

  3. Search and email boxes should be easy to type in. Completing a form, inputting a search, or entering your mobile address via mobile shouldn’t leave you feeling like you’ve gone ten rounds with a champion thumb wrestler.  

    Opt for generous space both inside and around input areas.

  4. Give your links room to breathe. Are you seeing a reccurring theme here? Google is also trying to stamp out crammed-together links.

    Fixing the issue should take just a few lines of CSS code.

  5. Double-check your blocked assets in Robots.txt. If you’re blocking primary CSS files, like your stylesheet, and any critical JavaScript files, Google’s not going to like it one bit.  

    A general rule of thumb is to only block things in Robot.txt that are known to cause issues.

Rob Thurner

Published 27 May, 2015 by Rob Thurner

Robert Thurner is Founder and Managing Partner at burn the sky and a contributor to Econsultancy. 

3 more posts from this author

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Comments (3)

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Andrea Anderheggen, Founder & CEO at Shopgate

Thanks for the great article. I'd like to mention that there are also specialized tools and platforms to make sites mobile. One of them is my own one (www.shopgate.com) for eCommerce stores. But there are also a bunch of others for all sorts of business verticals.

Besides the websites, I believe it's also worth mentioning that Google also emphasized the importance of mobile apps being indexed in the mobile search. It basically means that app content will be relevant too for search. There is also some logic behind Google using apps as ranking factor to identify websites that are investing more in their business (quality criteria). I guess that's pretty important too, looking at the fierce competition Google gets from other larger mobile players and their specific search types.

over 2 years ago

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Chris Monkman, Web Developer at E-Dzine

And this is why I like big butt(ons) for a mobile website.

Nothing bugs me more to this day than having to faff around trying to click a tiny minuscule gif button because the developers don't want to recognise that it's much easier to manage with modern (note not ie6/7 friendly but that falls back gracefully so get over it and stop pandering to a 15 year old browser) CSS style sheets.

over 2 years ago

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rhian drummond, Digital Marketing Executive at Uprise Marketing

Another great article, a lot of people forget about the predicament of sausage fingers! Sadly, not all of us are blessed with elegant pianist fingers. It shouldn't have taken people this long to jump on the responsive bandwagon, but the Google update has thankfully spurred people on. At the end of the day, user experience should always be a priority for business owners. We also celebrated the one month anniversary of Mobilegeddon in this article (http://www.uprisemarketing.co.uk/surviving-mobilegeddon/). It looks at the benefits of a responsive website from two perspectives: SEO specialist, and web designer.

over 2 years ago

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