Getting to Grips with Mobilegeddon

This week Google algorithmically rolled out a page specific mobile friendly update into the search engine that will boost pages that are better optimised for smartphones’ smaller screens offering a good, solid mobile experience and reducing the organic performance of pages that failed to do so. It is also important to notice that these changes only apply to individual pages, not entire websites at the moment.

Prior to the launch, at the start of 2015, Zineb Ait Bahajji of Google Webmaster Trends predicted that the update was going to have a greater impact on organic rankings than Google Panda (12%) and Penguin (3.1%). He cited a projected ‘more than 12% of mobile search queries' being potentially affected.

With the building press around the predicted changes, it comes as a surprise that that larger companies were not ready for the change. In a report compiled for Tech Crunch by Sead Fadilpašić, every Fortune 500 website using Google PageSpeed insights API was trawled. The results found that a staggering 44% were not mobile friendly, leaving them at the mercy of Google’s new algorithms. A further 4% of sites did not produce a response, and actively discouraged Web Bots from Google and Bing.

Many clients at Coup are not convinced that their websites have an enormous amount of mobile traffic. "Mobile to overtake fixed Internet access by 2014" was the huge headline summarising the bold prediction from 2008 by Mary Meeker, an analyst at Kleiner Perkins Caufield Byers who reviews technology trends annually in May (see latest KPCB mobile technology trends).

Even Mary couldn’t have predicted anything more clearly. Statistics on show that in 2014, global mobile data traffic amounted to 2.5 exabytes per month. In 2019, mobile data traffic worldwide is expected to reach 24.3 exabytes per month at a compound annual growth rate of 57 percent. In 2013, 73.4 percent of the global online population accessed the internet from their mobile phone. This figure is expected to grow to 90.1 percent in 2017.

Fact Box

 Image from  Google

Image from Google

What does Mobile Friendly actually mean? 
It means a site’s text has to be readable without tapping and zooming, its tap targets need to be spaced out appropriately, and the page avoids unplayable content or horizontal scrolling. In other words, the site simply needs to be easily usable from a mobile device.

How does a website become mobile friendly?
Some sites need to have a separate mobile friendly view of a page built, some will have a Responsive Design created and some may need to start again from scratch.

What is Responsive Design?
Responsive design means that the design of the page that someone is looking at adapts the content to suit the size of the screen that they are viewing it on – from an iPad to laptop to mobile phone. 

What do I do if I see the update having a detrimental affect on my site?
You can rectify the issue and it would be picked up by the algorithm again. Google does however also recommend that you could speed up the finding of that change by using the ‘Fetch and Render' feature within the Google Webmaster Tools platform.

Does this just affect mobile searches or all searches?
The changes are to be extended to desktop browsers as well although the cynics out there are saying that Google are attempting to push companies towards developing a responsive approach over mobile specific.

Is the Mobile Friendly Update finished with? 
Google has not yet said whether they will be making further updates in the coming year. It is likely that there will be more changes and that websites that have so far resisted becoming mobile-friendly, need to adjust themselves.

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