Mobile-friendly website

#Mobilegeddon has come and gone without altering the entire landscape of Google rankings. For the most part, there were no earth-shattering changes or any huge upsets. Website traffic for the majority of websites didn’t plunge the day after April 21.

Although there was a lot of hype around #mobilegeddon, I didn’t predict any immediate earth-shattering changes. The media hyped this algorithm update for weeks after Google announced it at the end of February. This scared many people to thinking their website would disappear from mobile devices on April 22. While industry experts were not sure what the update might entail, I think most would concur that for many it wouldn’t be that drastic of an impact.

We did our due diligence by letting clients know that the change was coming and that it could have a large impact. But, I told those who I talked to they would most likely not see a huge drop in traffic the day after the update. Instead, the impact would be felt over time.

Why There Wasn’t a Big Shakeup – My Theory

Many large businesses already have mobile versions of their websites or use responsive design. If not, come April 21 they were the most likely to see impact from the change. But, many of these larger players are also well-known websites that have good optimization, high traffic, etc. Therefore, other ranking factors may trump the lack of a mobile-friendly site. In addition, some of these larger businesses may only have some pages that are not mobile-friendly. They would then only see the impact for those pages.

On the other hand, many small to medium sized businesses do not yet have a mobile-friendly website. And, if they do, they are in a competitive ranking space that is a mixed bag of mobile-friendly and non-mobile-friendly websites. Mobile-friendly is only one set of ranking factors and Google uses hundreds. If a website is mobile-friendly, but lacks quality content and other optimization, a non-mobile-friendly website could still rank well.

However, I would argue that if you have two websites with similar content and optimization. And one of the websites is mobile-friendly and the other is not, the mobile-friendly site would outrank the other.

Are You Sure Your Website Wasn’t Impacted?

This is where analytics come in. Have you checked your website stats to be certain your website wasn't affected by Google's mobile-friendly algorithm update? If you don’t have a mobile-friendly website (and even if you do), it’s important to look at your analytics on a regular basis for changes in traffic. In a previous post, I wrote about how to check website analytics to review mobile traffic. And, now that more time has passed, you can do some comparisons with the previous period or even the previous year to see the traffic differences since the update.

Mobile-Friendliness Still Important…

Even if your website didn’t see any drop in rank or traffic after #mobilegeddon, becoming mobile-friendly is still important. Putting aside rank, if your site is found in the search results on a mobile device and is not mobile-friendly, it will contribute to a bad user experience.

While checking your analytics, be sure to check the bounce rates of traffic from mobile devices and compare to desktop searches.  My guess is that it’s high – and remember a lower bounce rate is usually better depending on your goals. For non-mobile-friendly websites, I often see an average of a 20% increase in bounce rate from desktop searches to mobile searches.

Especially for Local Businesses

Imagine this – someone in their car and in a hurry (not driving of course) is looking for a local business like yours. Even if it’s found, if your website is not mobile-friendly it will make for a bad user experience. This will either leave a bad impression or cause that person to look for another business.

Algorithm Updates are On-Going

Google is not done. No algorithm change Google does is a one-time change it and forget it. For major algorithm changes Google has done in the past, updates are on-going. Consequently, even if your non-mobile-friendly website has not seen an impact from the update yet, it most likely will. And, it will probably not be a sudden drop in mobile traffic, but a steady decrease over time.

Google has made clear they feel mobile is critical in search. Not only was there an announcement about this algorithm update, but Google has a mobile-friendly test tool, provides warnings in Google Search Console (formerly Google Webmaster Tools) if your website is not mobile-friendly, and has outright said that mobile is important.

Others Are Following Google’s Lead

Though often forgotten behind the giant lead Google has in search share (for both desktop and mobile / tablet), other search engines are following suit. On May 14th, Bing announced that they too will be incorporating mobile-friendliness into their ranking factors for mobile search. The Bing search engine powers both Bing and Yahoo search. Bing didn’t provide an exact date like Google, but said that they plan “to start rolling out mobile friendliness ranking changes in the coming months.”

Considering mobile in your marketing is important now – not tomorrow. I’m sure there will be something else that comes along that will be the next big thing (wearable technology, etc.) that requires even further adjustment. But, if you’re not optimizing your business for mobile use now, you’re missing out and will only be further behind if you wait much longer.


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+Elissa Mitchell

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