MOBILEGEDDON: What the Fu*k has Google done to my website?!

Are you ready for Mobilegeddon? As you may or may not be aware, this latest change to the Google algorithm took place on Tuesday, 21st April. The stated aim of the change is that it is a mobile-friendly update which will boost the rankings of mobile-friendly pages – i.e. pages that are legible and usable on mobile devices – in mobile search results worldwide. This article examines the implications of the changes in more depth.

According to a Google announcement at SMX Munich, the new mobile friendly algorithm will have a greater impact than two previous algorithm changes – Panda and Penguin. Panda was a filter with several versions that was designed to penalize “thin” or poor content from ranking well. It affected 12% of search queries. Penguin targeted sites suspected to be spam, especially those paying for links or keyword stuffing. Penguin affected 3.1% of search queries.

It is therefore reasonable to assume that at least 12% of mobile search queries will be impacted by Mobilegeddon. So, what does this update actually do?

This update will mean that if you are using Google to search on a mobile device, the search results will give priority to websites that are mobile-friendly. It is important to understand that Mobilegeddon has no effect on searches from tablets or desktops. It affects only searches from mobile devices – albeit across all languages and locations. It will still have a big impact: mobile searches account for about half of all Google searches.

The update drastically affects how search results are presented on mobile devices in that sites that are deemed to be mobile-friendly will be labelled as such in the search listings – see example below:

Mobilegeddon

But what exactly does mobile-friendly mean in this context? Google defines a site as being mobile-friendly if it meets the following criteria:

– It does not use software that is not common on mobile devices, such as Flash,
– It contains text that is readable without zooming,
– It sizes content to the screen so that users don’t have to scroll or zoom,
– It places links far enough apart so that the correct one can be easily tapped,

If you want to check if your website is mobile-friendly, Google has provided a Mobile-Friendly Test! You can type the URL of a page into into the test and it will test that page for “mobile-friendliness”.

Note that the updated algorithm applies to pages not whole sites. So, for example, if you have a 25 page site with 15 mobile-friendly pages, only those 15 mobile-friendly pages will be positively impacted.

As Google roll out the new algorithm over the next few weeks, there is tangible relief that in the first instance the changes only apply to the “ten blue links”. The ten blue links on any Google page are the organic search results, not the ones that have been paid for.

The significance of this is that other components on the page, such as “In the News” and “In-Depth Articles” will not be demoted for not being mobile-friendly. In the short term, this makes sense as it enables Google to proffer the best in-depth results and samples news stories to users, regardless of whether they are mobile friendly or not.

Longer term, however, as the algorithm becomes a more embedded way of how Google operates, it will begin to have significant influence on how users browse, shop, and spend their time online on their smartphone. As digital marketers, we need to ensure that our websites are mobile-friendly to stay ahead of the game! If our websites are not deemed to be mobile-friendly, they will gradually be demoted in Google listings!!

Time is short! Does your website pass the Google Mobile-Friendly Test? If not, it is time to change! Use the criteria above to make adjustments to your website as needed. Inconvenient perhaps, but in the digital world, nothing stays still.

Wave goodbye to Panda and Penguin, and enter the brave new world of Mobilegeddon.