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#sowhoknew: Mobilegeddon – the biggest anticlimax since Y2K

Did you catch last week’ss lurid B-movie style headlines such as “Want to survive Mobilegeddon?” and “Businesses Brace for Mobilegeddon?!” The doomsday predictions proliferated prior to the April 21 deadline imposed by Google but the sky did not fall on Tuesday and the entire event turned out to be a pretty damp squib…

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So, just in case this one passed you by, what exactly is Mobilegeddon? Apart from being a rather clumsy word mash of ‘mobile’ and ‘armageddon’ it basically referred to Google’s latest tweak to its search algorithm. The main facet of the change is that they will now favour websites in search that are more mobile-friendly. Meaning? Companies that have sites that meet Google’s mobile standards will rank higher in search results on smartphones.

That doesn’t sound even vaguely scary does it? So why all the overblown hysteria? Well, maybe unsurprisingly, many small businesses don’t have mobile ready websites. However, what is more interesting, is that many big businesses also suffer from the same problem. In fact, a recent study by Pure Oxygen Labs claims that over 40 per cent of the Fortune 500 companies do not have a mobile compatible site.

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The reality though is that mobile-friendliness isn’t the only determinant for search results so although some sites will lose a modicum of traffic it’s not as if it will suddenly fall off a cliff. Also, getting your website compatible with the new Google algorithm is not that difficult, time consuming or expensive. As one pundit on Forbes described it “I don’t think this is the end of the world for most folks.”

Industry analysts seem to believe that the conspiracy theorists have managed to make this story thrive within media circles when frankly, there was really very little to tell. The melodramatic name probably had a lot to do with that. And Google itself has kept quiet because, well, let’s face it, it’s all decent publicity for them.

That said, although this hasn’t turned out to be such a big deal for consumers or businesses, there is possibly a much bigger incentive for Google… Although its desktop search and associated ad model is still the global leader, it really need to focus on mobile for its future. Again here it is dominant but arguably not untouchable. Its mobile search revenue fell to 68 per cent in 2014, from 83 per cent just two years ago, according to eMarketer. That’s largely because mobile users often tend to use specific apps when searching on their smartphones (eg. going straight to the Amazon app instead of using Google’s search function to locate them).

The excessive hyperbole surrounding Mobilegeddon in the past week reminded me of the much vaunted Y2K/ Millennium Bug nonsense at the turn of the last century. Way back then, we were all sucked into a media created maelstrom based on the premise that computers would fail en-masse, planes would fall from the sky and we would wake up from our New Year’s Eve hangover to a world that resembled a scene from ‘The Terminator’. The reality was a tad more mundane. The only problem most of us were confronted with that morning was how we could reset the clock on our VCR’s…

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Steve Blakeman

Steve Blakeman is the Global Media Lead - Nestlé at Mindshare. Previously, he was the Managing Director - Global Accounts, OMD Europe. Previously, he was the CEO, Asia Pacific – OMD. Prior to that, he was Global Chief Integration Strategy Officer (Asia Pacific) for IPG Mediabrands (Initiative & Universal McCann). He has also had stints as worked as Managing Partner at Omnicom Media Group owned media agency, PHD where he successfully launched their second office in the UK. He began his career at JWT and has over two decades of experience in advertising, media and marketing communications.