On April 21st Google made some big changes to benefit the exponentially growing mobile and tablet audience. The great “Mobilegeddon” looked all set to rock the rankings of non-mobile sites across mobile search and shook the knees of marketers around the world.
It shouldn’t come as a surprise to anyone that mobile search is catching up to and in some cases overtaking desktop search around the world. Vice president of Product Management for AdWords claimed “We’ve hit an inflection point where more Google searches are taking place on mobile than on desktop in 10 countries, including US and Japan. We think it’s a real turning point in digital adverting and we have been investing in mobile-focused initiatives”.
The Mobilegeddon theory was that when Google expanded the use of mobile-friendliness as a ranking signal on devices like tablet and mobile, that sites that weren’t mobile-friendly would experience a massive drop in ranking when searched on a mobile device. This news is about as fresh as yesterday’s tuna sandwich, so let’s take a look at what has been going on in the digital world post Mobilegeddon.
There are a couple of schools of thought about how Mobilegeddon actually affected mobile device rankings. Some believe it was an over hyped non-event and others still stress that it’s had a notable effect on the rankings of non-mobile sites. In a study of more than 5,000 sites after April 21st, the Wall Street Journal found that traffic to non-mobile-friendly websites from Google mobile searches fell 12%. While this is a significant impact, it hardly seems to merit the doomsday vibe that resulted from Google’s announcement suggesting Mobilegeddon was merely a result of some crafty bloggers and writers who knew how to drum up a little drama. What should be taken away from Mobilegeddon, is that there are some very strong statistics that support optimising your website so that it’s mobile-friendly.
Just to give you a little refresher on the facts, globally in 2015 80% of internet users own a smart phone and on top of that unique mobile impressions increased by 5% year on year. We are seeing an upward trend of online interaction, with search across a number of devices and this is not just limited to smart phones and tablets, however they are currently fuelling the blaze. Around the world the use of mobile and tablet devices increased by 39% and 17% respectively, while desktop usage decreased by 13%. That is just the tip of the iceberg - it’s projected that data traffic across mobile devices will increase tenfold by 2019 and that mobile penetration will grow from 50% to 59% globally. Addressing statistics like this and preparing for the future of technology and web interaction is a no-brainer.
Let’s talk about what steps you can take to ensure your website receives the Google Mobile-Friendly tick of approval. We all love a good freebie so let’s start there: luckily our friends at Google provide some helpful tools to help you assess the mobile-friendliness of your site - take the test here. If you’ve already taken the steps to create a mobile-friendly or responsive site, Google will provide you with helpful tips about how to make improvements. Or if you’ve done your job well then you’ll get the big tick of approval and in Google search results your site should be ranking better across mobile and tablet devices. Rankings are also affected by your competitor’s actions. So if Google’s search ranking changes in April this year didn’t strike you into gear, then put some of your budget aside this financial year to get device-friendly. Creating a responsive site is just one way to optimise a website for multiple devices.
For those of you who don’t live in the digital world, responsive design isn’t a new trend, but it’s a great way to create seamless transitions from one screen size to the next. To sum it up, responsive sites are built to a number of “break points”, which fluidly adapt to various screen sizes including standard desktop, tablet and mobile sizes. As the screen size reduces so does the organisation of content and the menu. To understand how to get the ‘mobile-friendly’ tick of approval you can follow the Google Developer Mobile Guide. Alternatively, you can get in touch with a friendly Butterfly team member who can walk you through the process. For examples of responsive design check out www.campquality.org.au and www.ymcansw.org.au, which were designed and created by Butterfly Digital. To see them in action, simply resize your browser window from largest to smallest and vice versa, and watch the magic happen.
Ultimately, optimizing your site for mobile will assist in maintaining or increasing your rankings across mobile devices, however there are a large number of factors affecting the results and they should all be considered within your website strategy. For an up to date checklist of factors affecting rankings you can go here.
Regardless of what Google is up to, users will be turned off if your website doesn’t work on their device of choice and 61% of users are likely to leave a site if it isn’t mobile-friendly! What Google is trying to do by preferencing mobile-friendly sites in search results is provide a good user experience for their audience on their chosen device. Marketers should be prepared for the future of device interaction with responsive or mobile-friendly sites regardless of how it affects search rankings. Consequently, the drama of Mobilegeddon should act as a firm reminder to marketers to continue to address the many factors effecting user experience and website rankings.