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Google’s Mobilegeddon: Does your business now need to be optimised for mobile?

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22nd May 2015
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There was a time when businesses didn’t need to worry about anything other than making their companies visible online. With the growth of the internet, those who didn’t quickly join the trend severely missed out.

Once customers started going online, they then went mobile. Smartphones soon entered the market and this changed browsing behaviours forever. However, although this trend was certainly predicated, businesses have been slow to act.

According to Tech Crunch, more than 40% of firms on the Fortune 500 have websites which are not suitable for mobile browsing. Considering that mobile users will leave a webpage if it is not optimised for their needs, this news comes as a surprise to many.

Fortunately, Google recently announced a new update which will hopefully drag these organisations into the 21st Century.

The Google mobile update

Google made a change to its search algorithms on the 21st April which meant that a website’s ‘mobile-friendliness’ would factor into its ranking signals. Therefore, this means that companies which have a website optimised for smartphones could appear higher in search results than other firms.

When Google announced these changes, many individuals treated the alterations with hostility. For example, the Mirror described the impending update as ‘Mobilegeddon’ and claimed the search engine could destroy smaller websites.

With coverage such as this, it is understandable why so many organisations would feel threatened by the search engine. However, the truth behind ‘Mobilegeddon’ is that Google didn’t implement it maliciously - it was necessary.

Why would Google do this?

This is obviously not the first update that Google has made to its search algorithms. Previously the corporation has implemented alterations such as Penguin and Panda to crack down on poor online business practices.

Considering that a Google survey identified that more than 70% of mobile users believed it was important for a website to be optimised for their needs, there was a clear need for the search engine to make changes.

Furthermore, the sheer number of these individuals was identified in research conducted by business SMS company Text Local. According to the organisation, 75% of all handsets sold in the UK are smartphones while almost half of owners primarily use their devices for online browsing.

With research such as this, it was absolutely essential for Google to implement a new update – one which would take a website’s mobile accessibility into account.

Is my business optimised for mobile?

Fortunately, it’s really easy to find out if your business is optimised for mobile devices. By simply entering a URL into Google’s Mobile-Friendly Test, you can find out if users can browse that website without encountering any difficulties.

The organisation will comb the page and point out any flaws which need fixing, such as small text, proximity of links, and how easy it is to view.  While this test is a useful way to gauge problems and see what needs correcting, it doesn’t contain much more beyond that.

The test is a great place to start off with, but for more information on making your website more mobile-friendly, I would recommend reading this article on Moz which goes into the subject in much greater detail.

Alternatively, consulting a reliable SEO company is an effective way to boost the mobile functionality of your website. (On a related note, I have some good news for MyCustomer - their homepage passed Google’s test.)

The effects of this update

Considering that the update only took place last month, it’s a bit early to truly gauge its impact. However, if Econsultancy’s findings are correct, there have already been some clear winners and losers.

Using data from an organisation called PI-Datametrics, which analyses the ranking of numerous large corporations for several topics, the organisation was able to determine where certain businesses stood following the update’s implementation.

One notable case appears to be British Airways (BA). Econsultancy states that BA’s Algeria page is only optimised for desktop use, not mobile devices. Therefore, following the change, the figures showed that particular section plummeted down the rankings.

 In contrast, ASDA’s website is mobile-friendly and the statistics illustrated the organisation had already benefited from the update.

Although this research is certainly interesting, it is important not to jump to conclusions. The data only shows correlations and patterns rather than definitive results - it just happens to coincide with Google’s mobile update. Potentially, organisations might have experienced a drop or increase in rankings due to changes they implemented prior to it.

To really get a clear picture of how Google’s algorithm has changed things, we will need to revisit these results in several months’ time.

How can you benefit from this?

Although organisations can obviously profit by having a website optimised for mobile devices, Econsultancy’s findings suggest an additional benefit which firms can take advantage of.

If Google is penalising websites which aren’t suitable for mobile users - and elevating those which are - this is a great opportunity for firms to get an edge over their rivals.

Although this will likely only last a short time before mobile-friendly websites start becoming more common, those ahead of the curve can potentially use this opportunity to experience increased visibility and revenue.  

Tom Chapman is a content specialist working for Vertical Leap, a digital marketing agency. He specialises in matters related to marketing, such as SEO as well as social media, and has been keeping an eye on Google’s mobile update.

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