By: Roland Campbell, Director of Solution Engineering
Like many hyped tech problems, Mobilegeddon was more media frenzy than disaster. Mobilegeddon was a name given to the search ranking change Google announced on March 21st. For the first time Google was very detailed in the specifications for the impact of its new search algorithm. If you did not have a “mobile friendly” site, your search rankings were going to be detrimentally affected. Google enforced the significance of the change by offering a “mobile-friendly” tester with explicit instructions on how to pass the test. The criteria for mobile-friendly included:
- The viewport of the site had to be set to the correct size. This means serving “pinch and zoom” pages to mobile would be penalized.
- Tap targets and fonts must be appropriately sized and spaced for mobile.
- Googlebots must be allowed to index the site.
The first two requirements are easy to understand. They are simply best practice for any mobile site, and therefore most mobile sites would probably pass that part of the test. But what does having the Googlebot index the site have to do with it being mobile-friendly? Nothing. But it is good for Google. As mobile garners more and more of the total internet traffic, Google’s ad revenue from mobile is impacted by its ability to index mobile site pages.
Why then all the hub-bub and the ominous sounding name? Google has an immense amount of power, and when they make an announcement, people listen and the media overreacts.
That is not to say that the change had no effect. There was an almost 5% growth in the number of sites with the mobile-friendly tag in the week leading up to the announcement. If you already have a mobile-ready site, your ranking likely did not change much. If you did not have a mobile-ready site, early results are pointing to a drop in traffic. Search for any retail keyword on your phone, and see how many pages you have to go through before you hit a retail site that does not have the mobile-friendly tag. Does it matter? If you are not on the first page, it is unlikely you are going to get many clicks. Google has said that it expects overall search queries on mobile devices to exceed PC volumes this year. So yes, it matters, but there is time. Like all Google algorithm changes, they take some time to have the full effect. And BTW, Microsoft just announced a similar change for Bing.
If you still don’t have a site that is mobile-friendly, it is time to take action. You should also be aware of the next set of changes coming down from Google. Next, the mobile search algorithm is going to start measuring performance and applying site speed to your search ranking. This means that performance should become a prime consideration as you formulate your mobile strategy. To get performance you have to choose the right technology.
Succeeding in mobile takes more than just getting a mobile-friendly site. Bottom line is that brands need to create sites that engage with customers and help them quickly find the products they need and complete the action they want to take as simply as possible.