On Tuesday, April 21, 2015 Google rolled out its new “Google Mobile Algorithm” update, and if your site is not mobile-friendly you have most likely been removed from search results on mobile devices.
This can have a significant impact to any online business whether you are an Internet Retailer or focused on lead generation in the B2B space. If you are not yet convinced that creating a mobile-friendly site is important, consider the following:
- More Google searches take place on mobile devices than on computers in 10 countries including the US and Japan.1
- In March, for the first time, the number of mobile-only adult internet users exceeded the number of desktop-only internet users, in part due to declining desktop usage (see chart below).2
- Search is the most common starting point for mobile research. 48% start on search engines.3
- 27% of consumers will leave a site if it is not mobile-optimised. 4
- For online retailers in Q2 20155:
- Smartphone visits grew by 269 percent over Q1 2014
- Smartphone orders were up 104 percent, and reached 13 percent of all transactions
- Overall mobile devices (including tablets) represented 41 percent of traffic in Q1 2015
- Cumbersome checkout processes and high abandoned shopping carts remain a significant issue for mobile eTail sites
Google has been very vocal on its stance about mobile in the past year, so this algorithm update is not surprising.
Let’s recap several recent mobile moves by Google:
- November 2014: Google adds the “Mobile-Friendly” label in mobile search results, which looks like this:
- January 2015: Google begins to warn webmasters (via Webmaster Tools) of mobile issues on their websites. In fact, these were all labeled as warnings and webmasters were able to view each issue (or warning) in detail and take steps to correct it. This was the telltale sign an algorithm update was coming.
- Late February: Google officially announced this algorithm change on its Webmaster Central Blog:
- April 21, 2015: The Google mobile algorithm is released (dubbed “Mobilegeddon”, effectively unleashing panic and chaos to business owners across the globe.
- End of April 2015: Breadcrumbs begin to display in mobile search results (U.S. only). Thus, it is important to have clearly labeled, keyword friendly directory structures. If you do not like what Google is showing as your breadcrumbs, you can add schema markup language to your pages that define exactly what you want the breadcrumb to be (see schema.org). They look like this:
“Starting April 21, we will be expanding our use of mobile-friendliness as a ranking signal. This change will affect mobile searches in all languages worldwide and will have a significant impact in our search results. Consequently, users will find it easier to get relevant, high quality search results that are optimized for their devices.”
Take the Test
Not sure if your website is mobile friendly? Test it here:
If you passed, congratulations! You are good to go and can stop reading this article right now, if you so choose.
Failed the test? Well, you have some options. You can:
- Do nothing (probably not the best choice)
- Build a mobile app (probably not necessary, costly and cumbersome)
- Build a mobile version of your website (why do this when you can go responsive?)
- Go responsive (this is Google’s preferred method, read on for more)
- Webmasters and marketers like it. It’s one website for all screens. One set of code, one set of SEO, one place to update your website.
- Users like it. One URL, no redirects. It’s the same content so no matter what screens a visitor views your site on it’s the same experience.
- Google LOVES it. Enough said. But really, it’s because Google is all about the user experience and responsive sites are better in this regard. Plus, it means Googlebot only has to crawl one site, getting through the content and indexing it much more efficiently.
Points to be Made
There are few things to keep in mind about this mobile algorithm update.
- This was pretty big. It’s still big. Ignore at your peril.
- It runs in real-time. So if you don’t have a mobile site yet, but launch one next week Google will start to index and show your site on mobile searches the next time it re-crawls your site. In contrast, previous algorithm updates like Google Penguin and Panda were triggered to run on certain dates, not in real-time.
- Analysis is done on a page-by-page basis. Meaning that if you have a few pages that are not mobile friendly Google will simply penalize and not show those pages, not your entire site. You may also see several pages show in results at one, all will be marked as mobile-friendly, if they in fact are.
When it comes to Google, we all have a penchant for drama. There are a few things we learned in weeks immediately following “mobilegeddon”.
- The sky didn’t fall.
- The algorithm itself took weeks to fully make its way across the web and remove or “boost” sites accordingly. In fact, even by the time this article is published you may see fluctuations.
- After a mobile-friendly site goes live, Google can re-include it in mobile search results in as little as 24 hours. We have seen eCommerce sites take longer, since they are generally larger, and the algorithm crawls sites page-by-page.
- We have seen non-mobile friendly sites still rank in mobile results. This is especially true for brand searches. For example, if you search for “Coca-Cola” you are still going to see www.coca-cola.com first in results (whether it’s mobile-friendly or not), as it is the most relevant site to show you. After all, Google is all about relevancy.
- We have gathered the following statistics for our clients since 4/21 (average range, across multiple industries):
- 10-25% drop in traffic from mobile devices for non-mobile friendly sites
- 15-30% increase in mobile traffic for mobile-friendly websites
There are probably still some of you out there who think that you don’t really need a mobile site or it may not be a good investment at this time. We hear this a lot, especially from our B2B clients who think that their audience or customers do not visit their site from mobile devices. Here’s some food for thought…
Stop thinking in terms of B2B and B2C. Mobile usage is growing. People search and visit sites on their mobile devices all the time, regardless of personal or professional intentions. They expect a seamless and optimized experience every time they do, no matter what device they are using.
Take a look at your analytics data. Fuel your case for a mobile site (or not) by looking at how many people visit your site from a mobile device or tablet. How many actually stay? Is your bounce rate high, is your conversion rate low? If so, it may be time to go mobile. You could essentially be “leaving money on the table” and not even realize it.
For more information on Google’s mobile algorithm update, and others, we recommend visiting the Webmaster Central Blog frequently.
- Google internal data, courtesy of http://adwords.blogspot.com/2015/05/building-for-next-moment.html
- Data courtesy of http://www.comscore.com/Insights/Blog/Number-of-Mobile-Only-Internet-Users-Now-Exceeds-Desktop-Only-in-the-U.S?
- Data courtesy of https://www.thinkwithgoogle.com/research-studies/mobile-path-to-purchase-5-key-findings.html
- ExactTarget, 2014 Mobile Behavior Report
- Data courtesy of Q1 2015 study from http://www.marketlive.com/.