Thursday, March 17, 2016

Mobilegeddon Part Two? Google to Boost the Effectiveness of The Mobile-Friendly Signal

Google made an interesting announcement yesterday on its Webmaster blog: Beginning in May, the search engine will start increasing the effect of its mobile-friendly ranking factor.

If you remember, Google made a flurry of announcements last year about this mobile-friendly ranking signal, warning about "critical mobile usability errors," and urging sites to optimize for mobile. Some in the SEO industry even predicted a Mobilegeddon--a dramatic shift in rankings that would all but destroy any site not optimized for mobile.

In the end, the calamity was a "non event," at least according to Mark Munroe, who wrote an analysis of the numbers of Marketing Land:

"I have direct access to several sites that are extremely mobile unfriendly to the point of being mobile-nasty," Munroe wrote. "And yet … I can barely discern a difference."

Still, Munroe did not rule out the possibility of a future significant changes: "I do expect more mobile updates — and perhaps they’ll have a far more significant impact."

So are we now viewing the real Mobilegeddon? Likely not. Google seems to admit as much in its announcement:

"And remember, the intent of the search query is still a very strong signal — so even if a page with high quality content is not mobile-friendly, it could still rank well if it has great, relevant content."

In other words: If your site fulfills a browser's needs (in relation, of course, to his or her specific search query), you will still enjoy a good ranking.

On the other hand, if you're not mobile-friendly, and you're competing to fulfill a browser's needs with several or many other sites, each with "great, relevant content," you will likely lose traffic--and potentially business.

Listen, if you hope to attract business with your website, and you are not optimized for mobile, you are actively harming your business.

We know that mobile usage now outpaces desktop usage. This "Mobile Tipping Point" had been predicted for years; as of 2014, however, the change was official. As Tech Crunch reported that year (citing a comScore study): "Combined with mobile web, mobile usage as a whole accounts for 60% of time spent, while desktop-based digital media consumption makes up the remaining 40%."

At the time, comScore attributed a majority of mobile usage to apps--not search. Last year, however, Google confirmed that "more Google searches take place on mobile devices than on computers in 10 countries including the US and Japan."

More recently, Cisco released a report that detailed the growth of mobile. The first two stats alone reveal an astonishing change:

"Global mobile data traffic grew 74 percent in 2015."

"Mobile data traffic has grown 4,000-fold over the past 10 years and almost 400-million-fold over the past 15 years."

So is your site mobile-friendly?

If you don't know, take Google's "Mobile-Friendly Test" here.

Or you could simply Google your website from your smart phone. Since last year, Google has distinguished mobile-friendly sites with a "Mobile-Friendly" tag in search results. Last year, you were likely to find sites with and without the designation--as in this search for "summer blazer."

The first two sites here, Brooks Brothers and Pinterest, have received the Mobile-Friendly tag (noted below the address before the description). The third result, Lifestyle Mirror, has not received the tag.
The same search today reveals an entirely different view:

Note: The top results now reflect sites with more "great, relevant content." The previous number one result, Brooks Brother, has dropped to the fourth result today (not pictured). More importantly, however, Lifestyle Mirror (the third result above) has dropped completely off the first page, which is completely filled with mobile-friendly sites.

The two dramatically different results above might not be reflective of a "mobilegeddon," but they do represent a dramatic shift in rankings. For sites that have not optimized for mobile, the news is bad--and likely getting worse. 

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