Mobilegeddon: Google Set to Release Algorithm Update
In just a few days, Google is about to unveil a new algorithm update, one that’s getting a lot of attention for good reason. It’s suppose to be the one of the biggest changes yet and will impact more sites than Panda or Penguin ever did. This time it’s targeting mobile.
The “mobilegeddon” update (as it’s become referred to as) is intended to help users easily find relevant, high quality websites that are optimized for mobile when on a mobile device. Starting April 21st, Google will begin to use “mobile-friendliness” as a ranking signal for mobile searches. Websites that aren’t mobile-friendly could see a dramatic decline in mobile traffic.
On a panel at SMX Munich, Google’s Zineb Ait Bahajji stated that this will not impact desktop searches. Even if your site isn’t ready for mobile, you shouldn’t see a decline in desktop search traffic. (Breathe a small sigh of relief!)
However, this update is just the beginning. Cindy Krum, from MobileMoxie, predicts “Google will be launching a new mobile crawler (probably with an Android user-agent) that can do a better job of crawling single-page web apps, Android apps, and maybe even Deep Links in iOS apps.” There is a strong possibility that Google will be able to rank sites higher if the user already has the site’s app, or if an app has strong ratings and/or a lot of downloads.
What’s more, your mobile site page speed may start sending users to your competitors if that’s not also “friendly”. Page speed was noted as a ranking factor back in 2010, and now it’s possible Google is testing the use of red tags to alert users of slow page speeds. If your page speed is below par, you may be losing traffic despite having a mobile site.
With mobile traffic starting to surpass desktop traffic, it makes total sense that this is the direction Google would take next. At our annual conference in 2013, we predicted that the mobile tipping point for the entire Enterprise Network would be March of 2015, and that has proven to be true. At this time, we have over 50% of our traffic coming from mobile phones and tablets.
In Google’s defense, you probably should have upgraded to a mobile site already, or at least have a plan in the works to do so (especially if your traffic is over 50% mobile). Google has been pushing a good mobile experience for years, and sharing their recommendations for building smartphone-optimized websites since 2012.
Nevertheless, if your website isn’t quite ready for mobile yet there’s no need to panic. Unlike Panda and Penguin, where if you were penalized the recovery time was completely unknown, this can theoretically be a quick fix. You can use the tools provided by Google to find problems, including their Mobile-Friendly Test tool and the Mobile Usability section in Webmaster Tools. Find the problems with your site, address them and move on.
You’re not going to be penalized for not having your website mobile-friendly by April 21, just until you become mobile-friendly.
Many of our members have already made the switch to responsive designs. Some of them even won big awards at Leading RE this year. (We may be biased, but we think they’re pretty great, too!) We predict many more will start making this move and we should have about 90% of our members to a responsive design by the end of the year.
It will be very interesting to see how this plays out and how our traffic is impacted. When it came to researching more about this algorithm update over the weekend, this Moz blog post was really helpful in answering some of my own questions. Ironically, the Moz blog isn’t mobile friendly yet. =) Rand mentioned in the comments that perhaps they’ll use it as an opportunity to create a case study around their own blog. They will be able to see how this update impacts their traffic. Then, once their blog goes mobile-friendly, they’ll be able to see how their traffic adjusts back. We’re looking forward to hearing about it!