It has been exactly three weeks since the so-called ‘mobilegeddon’ calamity struck online businesses the world over – with apocalyptic images littering webpages and marketers crying in fear at what may come… Well, sort of. Whilst the somewhat terrifying title of mobilegeddon was obviously coined to strike fear into the hearts of those involved, it seems that all this fretting was for nothing; similar to when the Millennium Bug was doomed to break the internet and send us all back to the Stone Age (but didn’t), mobilegeddon seems to have actually passed without too many casualties, it seems.
First – what exactly was mobilegeddon? Well, the concept aligned with the news from search engine giant Google that it was going to be changing its algorithms so that websites that are mobile optimised will be given more favourable rankings in search engine results pages (SERPs). This new focus on mobile-optimised sites in smartphone searches is indicative of changes to how people search online – or rather, changes in the devices used to search, with smartphones and tablets becoming more and more popular.
It is this shift which led Google to alter their algorithms and take new devices into account. The search engine is constantly looking for ways to ensure content is ranked in the best way possible, and part of that now involves understanding the different devices used by consumers and how they search for websites.
So, how did this launch affect businesses and their website rankings? With reports stating that 40% of websites didn’t meet the criteria for an optimal user experience, the impact could’ve been catastrophic for thousands of sites. However, with the hype behind mobilegeddon making it seem like marketers would wake up one day to see their website shifted into some dark corner of the SERPs, what was failed to be mentioned was that the update was to have a gradual release. Various pieces of research conducted in the weeks following the release did track some changes to rankings, but nothing significant enough to warrant mass panic.
Numerous news sites then took the opportunity to inform marketers of what to expect and how they can calmly approach the algorithm changes. Somewhat self-explanatory guidelines such as ‘check your site isn’t already mobile optimised’ and ‘create one if it is not’ began to surface, dampening the mass hysteria of the days leading to its release.
But, despite the slow roll-out and sudden lull in panic, there have been some changes noted in association with this latest algorithm change. There has, for example, been almost a 5% increase in the number of mobile-optimised sites since the announcement was made in February of this year – a percentage that is expected to increase day-by-day as the changes take full effect.
This hasn’t stopped some businesses losing out on search traffic as a result of not having mobile-optimised sites, however. There are examples of websites shifting down SERPs simply because their site is not mobile optimised, losing out to competitors who are. This means that desktop searches compared to mobile searches are now very different – in fact, mobile search and desktop search results were found to be 69% different following the update.
This means that for those thinking mobile optimisation is something they needn’t worry about, it may be time to pull their head out of the digital sands; the need for a mobile site isn’t going to shrink – it’s going to continue to grow in relevance. Whilst the final results of Google’s roll-outs are still being analysed (the update was officially completed earlier this month), it doesn’t look like the site is going to abandon this search metric anytime soon – in fact, in the US they receive more searches on smartphones than they do on desktops.
With this in mind, businesses large and small need to regain some of that fear they had before the lacklustre implementation of the algorithm came about, and take it seriously if they haven’t already got a mobile optimised site. In the words of T. S. Eliot, the world may end “Not with a bang, but with a whimper” – and this is true for mobile optimisation, too. Expect continual, small whimpering changes to search rankings that will – without a doubt – reshape the web significantly in the weeks, months and years to come. If marketers don’t want this whimpering to spell the end of their presence in a digital world, they’d better get optimising.