Mobilegeddon: Expectation vs. Reality

Mobilegeddon Feature Image

If you work in digital marketing or technology space, you’ve likely heard of the wrath of Mobilegeddon for quite some time.

In SEO especially, we counted down the days until we needed to warn our mobile unfriendly clients that they needed to brace themselves for the worst. Fortunately, despite all the hype surrounding April 21, we have yet to see any disastrous results.

Last year, several Google employees forecasted that mobile search queries would overtake desktop queries in 2015. This brought upon much speculation that mobile friendliness would somehow be incorporated into Google’s algorithm.

Speculation turned into assumption when Google released the Mobile Friendly Tool for businesses to determine whether their site met the criteria to be deemed “mobile friendly” by Google.

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On Tuesday, April 21, Google confirmed it would be making a major update to its mobile search algorithm to favor mobile-friendly websites.

If your site had large text, easy-to-click links, and other mobile friendly factors, you would be okay. If not, you would theoretically be doomed. The confirmation came quicker than anyone had anticipated.

Expectation vs. Reality

The update rolled out a month ago, and to be honest, it wasn’t what we expected.

Webmasters were so concerned about the potential impact of the algorithm update that many chose to abide by Google’s rules (despite the short timeline), rushing to ensure their sites were mobile friendly. In fact, Google reported a 4.7% increase in mobile friendly sites between March and April.

The update was supposed to affect a significant amount of queries – more than the Panda or Penguin. However, neither our mobile friendly nor unfriendly clients have seen any major effects.

Mobile Unfriendliness Leads to Slight Decrease in Mobile Rankings, Increase in Mobile Organic Traffic

Example #1

Below reveals search data from a lead generation company without a mobile friendly website.

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As you can see, while there has been a slight decrease in both desktop and mobile rankings, it’s nothing like what we were expecting.

Coincidentally, this company’s mobile organic traffic has increased 40% YoY since the update. So even though they may be showing up less or in lower positions on mobile search, they have more visitors coming to their site from mobile devices.

Example #2

In this instance, our client with a mobile unfriendly saw no changes in desktop rankings since the update. In fact, they’ve even seen keywords that have never ranked before rank on page 1 in mobile web search.

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Mobile Friendliness and Rankings

On the other hand, let’s look at our clients who had mobile friendly websites and what we saw with their search rankings.

Example #1

For this lead generation company, the first week in May showed a clear upward trend in mobile rankings but again, we expected to see a bigger impact.

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Altogether, they have seen an average increase of 2 positions for only 9 queries in mobile SERPs since the update.

Example #2

For this Ecommerce site, mobile rankings have been steady with  a noticeable increase in desktop rankings since the update.

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Keep Calm and Carry On

While we haven’t seen any significant problems with mobile unfriendly companies, we are still urging them to make the updates to their site in order to pass the Mobile Friendly Test.

Google will continue to tweak this update over time, so we mustn’t assume safety from the impact of this update just yet. Though we’ve seen most companies fare okay so far, popular sites like reddit and School Loop both lost nearly 27% of their mobile SEO visibility.

It’s also important to remember that although mobile friendliness is now incorporated into Google’s algorithm, there are also hundreds of other criteria that can help increase the rank of your site.

It’s still best to stick with the basics: create meaningful and unique content and optimize HTML criteria like title tags, alt text and header tags.

What’s Next for Google?

Every year, Google changes its search algorithm around 500-600 times (sometimes announcing updates and sometimes denying them).

At 451 Marketing, our Search team is predicting mobile page load speed will be part of the next big Google update.  There’s nothing worse than sitting and waiting for a webpage to load on your phone.

After all, every move Google makes is in an effort to make their searchers as content as possible. We can’t be upset with that.

Melissa Sciorra

Melissa Sciorra, SEO Director. Follow her @mel_arroics!

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