We heard the rumors this was coming, but now it’s here. Google has finally laid down the law. Those who were just skating by without a mobile optimized site for all these years are now truly threatened. As of April 21st Google’s long awaited algorithm update came with a force, prompting some to call it “mobilegeddon”. In this latest update the search giant states that it will finally demote sites who appear in their mobile-search results that are not deemed “mobile-friendly”.
“As more people use mobile devices to access the internet, our algorithms have to adapt to these usage patterns”, Google stated in a post back in February, where over 2,000 people had left comments, the vast majority overwhelmingly supportive of this move.
To clarify, these changes will only apply to searches done on smartphones, not tablets, and only across organic results, not their paid ads product.
According to popular research, around 40% or so of the top websites out there currently fail Google’s “mobile-friendly” test. Given the large volumes of these properties not presently optimized for mobile, we anticipate to see major search ranking swings, and also a potential severe impact to websites who rely on these rankings to help fuel their business.
However, from a consumer point-of-view, this is a welcomed change. It will motivate more organizations to make their sites more usable on mobile devices. This is particularly good news for those of us in Asia where we live in a “mobile first” culture and demand and mobile first experience. Singapore alone sees over 67% of smartphone users actively searching on a daily basis, therefore the potential impact to brands who don’t get with the program could be huge.
This update is merely a continuation of Google’s practice of always tweaking or evolving its algorithm to meet the ever-changing needs of internet behavior. We saw it in 2011 with their “Panda” update which moved to penalize sites that simply did not have enough quality content for users. With Panda, if your content was minimal and/or weak, you were out, according to Google. And Google had launched this change with no warning to the general public. At least with this week’s algorithmic change, Google had made the announcement back in February, giving publishers adequate time to make their sites mobile friendly.
The Panda update is still relevant. Google is still about content and relevancy. Brands should absolutely continue to produce great content that is topical, fresh and easy to load. However, I think with this new move, Google are signaling to us that the user experience is now just as important as having a solid content strategy.
It’s clear what will separate the winners from the losers with this update. Having the right balance of relevant content coupled with a strong, optimized user experience with be the ones who come out on top.
But I think, as consumers, that’s what we all want anyways right? It’s about time Google starts rewarding sites that do it right and penalize those that don’t.