Surviving Mobilegeddon – Is it Safe to be Non-Responsive?
24th Jun 2015

Surviving Mobilegeddon – Is it Safe to be Non-Responsive?

The phrase “Mobilegeddon” may not mean much to you, but it’s a big part of the reason we’ve been bugging you to make your website mobile-friendly. In fact we announced Google’s plan, back in November 2013, to demote the ranking of non-mobile-friendly web pages in mobile search results.

It all came to a head when Google announced earlier this year that their new algorithm would start to take effect on 21st April.

Anticipating big falls in traffic from smartphones, a scramble ensued by business owners desperate to convert their website to a responsive design before the deadline.

So what did Mobilegeddon actually do?

A lot of people were scared enough about the impact of the algorithm that they finally got around to doing what they should have done years ago.

Interesting fact: In the two months between Google’s announcement and the 21st April deadline, Google recorded a 4.7% increase in the number of mobile-friendly sites.

Considering the hype, some site owners who’d missed the mobile boat were relieved that there wasn’t a more apocalyptic effect on their mobile rankings. Does this mean it was all a waste of time? Certainly not. Consider these facts.

  1. Research shows that post-21st April, rankings on mobile devices have never been more different from desktop rankings. The latest estimate is that around 69% of all search queries are ranked differently on smartphones.

Mobile rankings - Desktop vs Mobile

Image source: SEO Clarity

Takeaway tip: If you rank well on desktops and laptops, but you don’t have a mobile-friendly website, don’t assume you’re getting good visibility on smartphones.

  1. Businesses did lose visibility in search results and that potentially had a massive impact. Seeing your smartphone ranking slip by as little as even one position, from page 1 to page 2, will have a huge effect on your website traffic.

Takeaway tip: If your competitors are mobile-friendly but you’re not, it may not take much for them to edge you out of the prime real estate in search results.

  1. Unless the trend for smartphone users starts going backwards (unlikely), Google will continue to optimise their experience, using their algorithm to target other mobile-friendly factors. For example, it’s been suggested that page load speed is a real bug-bear for smartphone users. This could be something that Google targets in future.

Takeaway tip: Mobilegeddon, such as it was, is simply the beginning. If you survived it relatively unscathed that’s great, but be aware, there’s more to come.

There’s a fourth reason not to shrug off the whole issue of responsive design and it has nothing to do with rankings or a shrinking audience.

Simply put, why wouldn’t you want to make your visitors’ time on your website as satisfying and bug-free as possible? Google research shows that 67% of people are more likely to buy a product or service from a mobile-friendly site, while 79% of people who don’t like what they find will return to search results.

Google may be pushing for change, but in the end it’s your customers who will dictate the terms.

What makes a website mobile-friendly?

Here's a few things Google is looking for in a mobile-friendly website:

  • text size that's comfortable for users to read on smaller screens
  • no need to scroll horizontally to read content
  • using plugins which are compatible with all mobile devices
  • fast page load times
  • placing hyperlinks far enough apart that users can select them with ease.

Tools to test mobile-friendliness

Google provides free tools which enable you to check some of the mobile-friendly factors on your website. 

Use the Mobile Friendly Test to check any page of your website. You'll get an "Awesome" message back if it's ok, or some suggestions to improve the page if it's not. In the examples below, the awesome site on the left is our customer's website, Tackleuk, which launched in 2014. On the right, and recognised as one of the biggest losers in the Mobilegeddon aftermath, is the popular news bookmarking site, Reddit.

Examples of Google's mobile friendly tool

Google also has a Page Speed Insights tool to give you some idea if your pages load quickly enough to satisfy mobile search. Use the tool to get ideas for making your sight faster and more mobile-friendly. 

Google's Page Speed Insights tool

What to do if Mobilegeddon affected you

Websites which have been affected by this algorithm still have a chance to regain lost rankings if they're prepared to make the appropriate changes. There's some evidence of web pages regaining mobile rankings within 24 hours of being made mobile-friendly. This is great news if you're only just realising the importance of responsive design and want to make up lost ground.

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