Mobilegeddon, an update…

You may remember that at the end of April, there was a rather large commotion in the digital world over what was being known as ‘mobilegeddon’. Google were set to start factoring the mobile-friendliness of websites into their mobile rankings.

In short, if your site didn’t pass their ‘mobile-friendly’ test, you were at risk of plummeting down the mobile rankings into SERP oblivion.

So what were the key factors set to influence Google’s mobile-friendly test?

Mobile viewport not set: If you minimise a responsive site on your PC, you’ll notice that the content on the page scales down and realigns to fit the viewport. Setting a mobile viewport means that content will be scaled to fit a mobile device’s smaller screen too.

Text too small to read: A truly responsive page will rearrange content so that it can be easily viewed within the parameters of the screen it’s occupying. If your mobile site’s viewport isn’t properly configured, a small font will make the information on your page hard to read.

You might also have noticed a small icon of three horizontal lines in the top right hand corner of some mobile pages you visit. This ‘hamburger menu’ is a simpler, condensed version of the usual desktop menu and serves to make navigating on a touchscreen device easier.

Links too close together: When text is too small and links are too close together on a touchscreen device, it can lead to all sorts of issues with navigation around your site, as well as distracting (and probably annoying) visitors, who’ll be likely to leave your page and search elsewhere.

Content wider than screen: If you show a desktop page in a smaller screen, you risk cutting off valuable areas of the content. This means that clients on touchscreen devices will need to spend time pinching and zooming around your site- and may miss key snippets of information.

Google mobile friendly test
April’s update sent digital marketers and business owners the world over into a frenzy. From the way the global media was positioning it, any sites that weren’t mobile friendly from the 21st April might as well not exist in Google’s eyes, and the aptly named mobilegeddon looked set to be the biggest shake-up to the algorithm since Penguin.

So, one month on, just how exactly has the mobilegeddon update played out? Were we right to panic, or was it really not worth all the hype?

The first victims

In the first weeks after the update, a few victims were immediately identified by those following the changes. Large, household brands such as Next were brought into the spotlight for failing to meet Google’s mobile-friendly standards.

In fact, figures from SearchMetrics suggest that in the week after the rollout, dropped up to 40% visibility across mobile channels. Here’s what a comparison of keyword searches looks like across their mobile and desktop sites (taken from Google UK):

Mobile rankings
So, looking at the above data from Google AdWords (UK), there’s an obvious discrepancy between the desktop and mobile rankings for Next, it’s clear that mobilegeddon has indeed begun to claim its first victims, and plenty of other large brands have been threatened by it before making the necessary changes to their mobile sites.

How have small and medium sized businesses fared?

It’s all well and good to study the fate of a huge household name, but it’s not exactly the best comparison to make to SMEs. We looked across a sample of smaller to medium sized businesses (both B2B and B2C) to get a more accurate reading of how they’ve been affected by these changes, and they didn’t seem to have suffered to the extent the initial hype suggested they would.

Mobilegeddon 21st April
Taking one example of a site which doesn’t currently meet Google’s mobile-friendly criteria, we can see that since the 21st April, an overview of their mobile traffic shows fluctuations – both negative and positive. Overall though, results from the previous six months show that the update of 21st April hasn’t really affected mobile traffic levels to the site at all:

Mobilegeddon update
In the month since the update went live, there hasn’t been the dramatic decline in traffic we thought there would be to those sites which failed the mobile-friendly test, and indeed many don’t seem to have noticed any changes at all. So, what does this suggest about Google’s approach to the roll out?

How is Google treating SMEs?

Although there’s no doubt that Google’s update has started to affect mobile rankings across the board, it’s certainly not been the apocalyptic change many predicted it to be (which made it deserving of the name mobilegeddon in the first place).

It appears the changes are taking place more slowly for smaller businesses than initially thought, and where large businesses (like the Next example shown above) appear to have suffered in these early stages, perhaps Google is giving smaller brands a head start to make the necessary changes before penalising them too heavily.

The roll out is still early days, but there’s no doubt that Google’s latest algorithm update should be taken seriously. This is just the beginning of a change that has been coming for a long time- the way consumers use the internet is changing, and Google will continue to give priority to the sites which give the best user-experience across all devices.

We still advise all of our clients to ensure that their site meets mobile-friendly requirements as soon as possible to avoid any issues later down the line. If you’ve been left behind by the mobile friendly update, there’s still time to make the changes.

As always, the team at Fluid are here for you. Give us a call, or send us an email and we’ll be happy to help you make your site more user-friendly across mobile devices.

  • Written by on 20th May 2015 at 09:29
  • “Fluid Creativity is an award-winning, multi-service digital agency based in Manchester.”
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