A little over a month ago, in a move that caused something of a stir, Google rolled out its latest search algorithm update for mobile platforms and the world went crazy.
Well, maybe not the world, but for those within the industry this seemingly major update signalled a fairly large prospective change in the way businesses may have to develop their websites.
The update (playfully dubbed ‘Mobilegeddon’ by those with a penchant for the melodramatic) marked a clear distinction as to what search results Google would or would not rank highly. Specifically: Mobile-friendly websites. Google categorically stated that if your website does not function properly on mobile devices, it won’t appear highly in mobile search results.
Google updates its algorithms and search functionality all the time to improve its user experience and deliver the best results possible, be it a simple tweak or a more comprehensive change. The majority of these updates go more or less unnoticed by the general public, going live without much fuss or furore, or the need for an apocalyptic suffix. But Mobilegeddon in particular caused something of an uproar over the past few months, seeing businesses and webmasters scrambling desperately in the face of the impending calamity to make sure their sites were compatible with the new updates, fearful of the possible loss of traffic to their sites.
You can understand why, considering that Google estimates around 50% of all searches are made from mobile devices. When you consider that the percentage of shoppers making purchases from their phones rose from 25% to 35% between 2012 and 2014, it’s not hard to see where the panic came from. For small businesses, particularly those who depend on localized searches to generate foot traffic, the potential ramifications of the update were certainly intimidating, as it seemed many businesses were set to lose custom if their sites didn’t match up to Google’s new mobile search standards.
But despite the hype and the hysteria, the tech-fearing prophets of the impending apocalypse standing on street corners, ringing bells and urging pedestrians to cast their mobile phones into the river in between shouts of ‘the end is nigh’, Mobilegeddon came and went and the world remained shockingly intact. Although Google had stated the update would be of ‘significant impact’, potentially more so than its predecessors the Google Panda or Google Penguin updates, those tracking the effects of the update from the safety of their underground shelters didn’t end up seeing results large enough to justify this. Whilst a lot of search results and queries may have been affected, the immediate impact of the update to businesses wasn’t nearly as devastating as predicted.
So, what exactly has changed?
Well, the update itself may have been somewhat overstated in its immediate consequence, but it looks like the fear instilled by Mobilegeddon has had a positive outcome. On April 21st, the day of the changes, Google reported a “4.7% uptick in the proportion of sites that are mobile friendly”- and that was over a month ago. The upside to all the panic and media attention the update garnered was exactly that; thanks to the discussion generated from the controversy, Webmasters were forced to acknowledge the necessity of mobile-friendliness and update their sites accordingly; even it was blown somewhat out of proportion.
That isn’t to say the whole thing was a lot of fuss over nothing. Despite the lack of any immediately damning impact, there has been evidence of businesses starting to lose traffic as a result of not being mobile friendly. The worries caused by the announcement of the new search algorithms were certainly not unjustified, and with mobile phones becoming increasingly prevalent as the browsing platform of choice for many consumers, Google has all the incentive it needs to continue to prioritize mobile searchers. It seems likely that Google will continue to refine and improve their mobile search algorithms, as they recently announced that there are more smartphone searches than desktop searches in the U.S. alone. If the trend continues, businesses that refuse to adapt may see traffic tank if they do not address the mobile-friendliness of their sites, or they will run the risk of seeing their sites left buried in the dark recesses of Google’s search results, left to rot in the graveyard of redundant results that make up the second or third page- or worse.
Despite the frustrations generated by Mobilegeddon, some of the results have been undeniably positive. We all use mobile phones and many of us use them to browse the internet. And at one point or another we have all had to face the frustration of trying to navigate a site that just doesn’t work properly on mobile. Even with increasing screen sizes, it is unquestionably irritating to have to deal with tiny unreadable text, or links squeezed so close together that you spend ten minutes clicking the wrong thing. These new changes implemented by Google have hopefully heralded the beginning of the end for these inconveniences, and we’re one step closer to a hassle-free utopia.
So what can you do to keep your website floating?
In most cases, in order to make a website responsive, you simply need to develop the code on the site to ensure it works correctly in different browsers and screen sizes. Typically you won’t need to create an entirely new platform for mobile access, as long as you consider things like text and content size, line spacing and appropriate flash software. It’s not a five minute job, but neither is it on the scale of building a new website, so getting your website working properly in Google is well worth doing.
At Mulberry Square, our development team is used to both designing and building fully responsive websites from scratch, as well as having experience in amending existing designs to make websites work properly on mobile browsers, and thereby keeping their rankings with Google.
If you need help keeping your website up to date in the wake of Mobilegeddon, feel free to contact us on 0116 237 4603.