We're now a few weeks into what many in the SEO world have deemed "Mobilegeddon" and the aftermath isn't quite as dramatic as some predicted it would be. While some websites are reporting minimal effects, very few--if any--have yet to reveal any catastrophic drop in search rankings.
The Significance of Google's Update
In the weeks leading up to Google's mot recent update, rumbles were felt throughout the industry. After all, when was the last time Google actually announced (a) that an update was coming, and (b) how said update would affect web pages? It doesn't happen very often. There's typically some sort of hint that a change is coming, but Google very rarely gives explicit details or a documented warning.
However, in an effort to increase the mobile friendliness of the internet as a whole (something that directly impacts their end user experience), Google gave a very generous heads up and told people exactly what they need to do in order to ensure pages were properly configured.
With that being said, there was reason in the weeks leading up to the update to be concerned (for sites that didn't already meet mobile-friendly requirements). So, it would be foolish to look back and say something like, "Everyone sure had a knee-jerk reaction." In the days prior to Mobilegeddon, as many as 40 percent of all websites failed to meet Google's mobile-friendly criteria for optimal user experience. In other words, this update had the potential to drastically affect two out of five websites (at least in how they're indexed by Google). But, the aftermath doesn't appear to be that significant.
Now that the dust has settled after the April 21 implementation, we're beginning to find some clarity. It's clear that the overall impact wasn't nearly as serious as some were predicting. Some say that's a direct result of many websites heeding Google's advice and investing in mobile-friendly or responsive web pages. A significant number of webmasters and businesses made the recommended changes prior to the April deadline and thereby avoided any issues. Google announced a 4.7 percent uptick in mobile-friendly sites in the days leading up to the update.
Others claim the shallow impact is because of the fact that Google is taking a "slow rollout" approach. However, we're a few weeks post-implementation and you would think any slow rollout would have concluded by now. Barry Schwartz of Search Engine Land doesn't see things getting any worse writing, "Will things in Google's mobile search results change even more over the next couple weeks? I doubt it. I suspect what we see today is going to be the 'worst' of this mobilegeddon."
That's the sentiment most are adopting in the short-term aftermath, but some are less than pleased with the search giant's attempts to define what is and is not satisfactory. As Ian Lurie, CEO of Portent, said in a statement to NPR, "Google is very scary at this point as a controller of web content." He continued, "It is a little scary to see them do this, because they're using their opinion of what a mobile ready website is, and that can mean a lot of different things."
Impact Thus Far
While we may not be out of the woods yet, it's safe to say the majority of websites won't see any change from here on out. That's good news and allows us to take a look back at which websites were affected by the new update, and by how much.
- There are potential losers. While nobody is saying much, Moz has conducted a little undercover investigation and analyzed some of the top domains in MozCast Mobile. They looked at the percent of ranking URLs that are tagged as mobile-friendly (as of April 21) and flagged some of the domains that could possibly have been affected. These include websites like www.amazon.com, m.youtube.com, www.foodnetwork.com, m.target.com, and www.irs.gov (which had an astounding 0.0 percent of URLs tagged mobile-friendly).
- But nothing's changed, yet. However, despite these low percentages, none of these sites have dropped much. YouTube actually gained some SERP share, while the IRS fell only a couple of spots. That's likely more related to the end of tax season and less to the update (either way, there's probably very little sympathy from the reading audience).
- Or maybe it has. Econsultancy also conducted some case studies and looked at the websites of a handful of companies and claims to have seen some effects, but nothing major. British Airways saw many of its unfriendly web pages drop at the point of impact, as did Barclays. Their mobile-friendly pages remained steady. The study also found our first potential winner, with Asda and Siemens experiencing a significant post-update jump on their mobile-friendly URLs.
So what's the overarching takeaway? It appears not much. Google was successfully able to increase the number of mobile-friendly web pages by hyping the update and placing a major emphasis on the need for websites to appease mobile users. Beyond that, though, it doesn't appear Google gave out many punishments--if any.
What to Do if You Were Affected
It would be overzealous to assume that your website wasn't affected, though. Most of the case studies are looking at major ranking websites, not smaller domains or niche pages. If you believe you were affected by the aftermath of Mobilegeddon, there are a few things you can do.
- Mobile audit. Whether you agree with Google's emphasis on mobile friendliness or not, you have to be satisfied with the free tools they've made available to site owners and webmasters. You can easily run your site through their Mobile-Friendly Test tool to see where you stand.
- Analyze traffic. The second thing to do is look at your analytics and review traffic numbers. Specifically hone in on the week leading up to April 21 and the week after. Do you see any significant uptick or drop?
- Invest in responsive. Finally, if you're still unsure of whether you were affected or not, it's a good idea to go ahead and invest in responsive design. This will eliminate any worry and will both please Google and your end users. Even if the impact of this update was minimal, all signs are pointing towards a need for widespread adoption of responsive web design. You might as well hop on board starting now.
Focus on Your Business
Now that Mobilegeddon is in the rearview mirror, you can get back to doing what you do best: focusing on your business. Stop worrying so much about what Google is doing and recommit to building a quality brand. In the end, brand awareness will increase organic traffic--and there's not much Google can do about that.