Google sent waves throughout the digital sphere in February when they announced changes were in store for their infamous search engine. Unlike their normal surprise updates, this one was a surprise because they very rarely give a documented warning.
When April 21st clicked off the calendar, everyone anticipated that the Four Horsemen of Mobilegeddon were coming, destined to shake up the SEO infrastructure as we knew it.
But now, the dust has since settled, and we can see the results of this change from the search engine behemoth.
Who did it affect?
Remember in The Sopranos whenever Tony has the reoccurring nightmare about being perpetually unprepared for anything in his life? If not, you should probably watch the series again. But I digress. The point is: that feeling of being unprepared is very similar to the stressed-out state that keeps many small businesses up at night fearing they’ll be exiled to the second page of Google’s rankings. And unlike Tony’s, their fear is much less arbitrary.
Anywhere after the first page of a Google search is like purgatory — you’re almost there, but not quite. If you think I’m being dramatic, listen to these statistics. According to a 2013 study, the first page of a Google search receives nearly 92 per cent of the traffic — leaving a measly 4.8 per cent to split up amongst the results on the second, close-but-no-cigar page. As if that’s not bad enough, even if your website manages to make it onto the first page of the search, one third of the entire search’s traffic goes to the very first result on that page, while the tenth and final result barely wrangles 2.4 per cent of the traffic.
So when Google announced that their search engine would be penalizing non-mobile friendly websites by promoting more mobile-friendly ones in the search results, you can understand why small businesses began to sweat.
In 2011, 41 per cent of Canadians reported working at a business that employed fewer than 20 employees. Companies that small often don’t have the luxury of hiring designers to code websites that Google deems mobile-friendly. That meant that under Google’s new regulations, they’d be at-risk of being relegated to the second-page dead zone.
So why did Google do it?
This was a part of a much larger strategy designed to guide companies into becoming mobile optimized to provide a more pleasant user experience.
This wasn’t a major shake up like the Panda algorithm that Google rolled out, designed to target weak content and how some brands saw upward of a 90 percent loss in their organic search footprint. This was a more methodical approach, focused on enhancing the user experience. Don’t you see? This was our benevolent tech overlord trying to help us!
Mobile technology is changing the entire landscape of the Internet as we know it. Google recognized this, and wanted to upgrade their own software to reflect that.
Take in some of these numbers for proof:
- As many as 40% of sites failed Google’s pre-mobile screening test
- 48% of search traffic now comes from mobile
- 4/5 consumers use a smartphone to shop
Yes, that number is correct. Almost half of all traffic to your website is coming from a mobile device. So if users open your website to see a Flash landing page, tiny fonts or fickle drop-down menus, they’re probably not going to stick around long. Couple that with the fact that most people online have an attention span that lasts 8 seconds, the bounce rate off your site will be quick and often.
However, Google also holds all the cards as to what qualifies as a “mobile-friendly” site, so you need to plan on keeping both your users happy and Google’s web crawlers happy. All signs point towards a need for widespread adoption of responsive web designs, but there are a handful of ways to ensure you pass the test.
In recent years, companies saw the Panda algorithm rollout drop their page rankings quicker than a Sunday leader board at the Masters. This is more of a paradigm shift in how consumers access information, as opposed to cleansing thin content like we saw with the Panda versions.
Mobile marketing is the future, and it goes back to how well marketers can adapt to this shift and optimize their content to cater to this surging market. Mobile devices are an integral part of any multi-channel strategy, where consumers frequently rotate between desktops, smartphones and tablets during their shopping journey.
Take this “mobilegeddon” as a friendly wakeup call to understand where the trends in consumer behaviour are gravitating towards. That might mean setting aside a slush fund to update your website with tools like CoffeeCup or Weebly. If investing in a mobile-friendly website now will keep you from slipping in the search results – it’s worth it.
Then you can get back to focusing on creating quality content and continuing to strengthen your brand – the rest will fall into place.