Google Mobile Search

Maybe you’ve heard of all the “Mobilegeddon” hoopla; if you have, it likely struck a little fear into your heart, triggering questions around what Google might be up to next. For the past couple of weeks, tech communities internet-wide have been abuzz with the impending change to Google’s search algorithms, which was announced back in February of this year.

The change, which has been coined as “Mobilegeddon”, aims to simply reward mobile-friendly websites with improved rankings in mobile SERP’s. Google spokesperson Krisztina Radosavljevic-Szilagyi commented on the changes recently in an email to NPR where she states the goal of this program is to, “…make sure [users] can find content that’s not only relevant and timely, but also easy to read and interact with on smaller mobile screens”. This seems to be a fair initiative considering that 48% of all searches now take place on a mobile device. Additionally, Radosavljevic-Szilagyi stated in regards to the change that, “The intent of the search query is still a very strong signal – so if a page with high quality content is not mobile-friendly, it could still rank high if it has great content for the query. The ranking update will not make it rank below lower quality pages that are mobile friendly.”

In addition to the change appearing relatively minor and logical in its application, Google announced this change months prior to its release so as to provide companies and business owners with ample time to revamp websites to become responsive to mobile devices. Google has even gone as far as to supply business owners with a new mobile usability report to the ever-expanding bag of webmaster tools to ensure that sites are mobile-friendly before the rollout.

With the internet up in arms over this new algorithm alteration, how exactly has the April 21st release of this change impacted mobile search results?

One Week Later

Now that the Google algorithm change has occurred and been in the process of rolling out for more than a week, many webmasters and tech-heads in the online community are shocked to find the scale of this radical change by Google is… minimal at best. Some shifts have in fact taken place and been duly noted by those watching closely, however, these alterations have not been significant by any stretch of the imagination.

Currently, there are several SEO metrics tracking companies, including Moz, with ears to the ground on this matter. It seems, however, that there genuinely isn’t much to report. Dr. Peter Meyers from Moz is one individual who has been closely tracking the event and was quoted as saying, “so far, the big day was April 22nd, and it wasn’t that big”.

With no major changes occurring, and no real “mobilegeddon” taking place, why exactly has the internet been creating such a big ruckus over such apparently rational changes?

The Fuss Over Mobilegeddon

Here is where the grey areas of this transition really begin to shine through. In lieu of Google’s update, online marketing firm Portent conducted a study across 25,000 “top-rated” websites in an attempt to evaluate just how many businesses are ready for this change. The results of the study found that 2 out of every 5 websites, or 10,000 sites, failed the test and are not mobile ready.

There are many reasons beyond ill-preparedness why these sites have not been outfitted to meet Google’s mobile guidelines. For starters, certain companies simply may not receive enough mobile traffic to justify a mobile counterpart to the site. Additionally, many businesses employ a mobile application in place of a mobile version of the site. These fantastic marketing applications can help to establish a brand and serve just as large of a purpose as a mobile site could. The new changes to the algorithm, however, could in a sense penalize organizations for going this route.

Secondly, for many small business owners and entrepreneurs it may come down to nothing more than finances and profit margins. Ian Lurie, CEO of Portent, was quoted in a statement to NPR saying, “Even if you’re building a brand new website, it’s more expensive to build a website that’s ready and renders well on a mobile device than to build a site that just looks good on the desktop. … It’ll be 25 percent or so higher than building a site that is only desktop ready.” This new algorithm change, however logical it may be, stands to put many small and local business at quite the disadvantage if they don’t find a way to join the mobile brigade.

In addition, many are becoming quite uncomfortable with the power that Google possess online and its ability to objectively define terms such as “mobile-friendly”. This is quite understandable considering that Google was just exposed for bolstering web ranking of their own services over competitors unfairly.

This is one of Mr. Laurie’s concerns as well, stating, “Google is very scary at this point as a controller of Web content.” He goes on to say, “It is a little scary to see them do this, because they’re using their opinion of what a mobile ready website is, and that can mean a lot of different things. Right now, their definition of a mobile ready website seems to just plain make sense. It’s a site that changes shape and size and remains readable on a smaller format device. But they could change that.”

The world is obviously headed in a mobile direction. Each and every year smartphones continue to grow more sophisticated and intelligent. Each and every year mobile continues to grow in its use, and sooner than later mobile will be the dominant platform for all digital needs. If you follow this column, you should already be aware of how important responsive design is and how crucial it is for businesses to adopt and implement. Now is the time to outfit your sites with a mobile design for these changes are sure to only progress from here.