On April 21, Google deployed the mobile-friendly algorithm update to its search product. This update boosts the rankings for mobile-friendly webpages on mobile search results. Again, it boosts the rankings of mobile-friendly webpages (not websites) on mobile search results (not on desktop nor tablet search results). It’s not to say there are no implications but let’s look at some more details.
The Mobile Convergence Is Here
In most markets mobile based traffic is exceeding fixed line access and this update is a direct response to increasing mobile traffic to Google search, now exceeding half. Given the different needs of mobile users vs. desktop and tablets, it’s natural that search needs are also different. This will establish a divergence between mobile and desktop search results that we’ll need to adapt to.
It’s important to understand that this update:
- Affects only search rankings on mobile results
- Has been deployed worldwide and across all languages
- Applies to individual pages, not entire websites
- Will result in a sizable loss of mobile traffic to non-mobile-friendly webpages from mobile search
Okay, got it: Should I freak out now?
In most cases, no. You should only be concerned if a significant portion of your organic traffic is coming from mobile devices.
Let’s look at an example risk evaluation, Let’s say your website isn’t mobile optimized (you can test it online): if 55% of total website traffic is coming from organic search and 90% of that is Google, 50% of your traffic is Google based. Now of your Google based traffic, only 20% of that might be coming from mobile. This means that after this update 10% of your total web traffic might be impacted but not compromised (55%x90%x20%=10%). It’s not to say this isn’t significant but it won’t result in a dramatic loss of traffic overnight (there are other things that can cause that). Also, chances are that if your website isn’t mobile friendly now it wasn’t getting much mobile traffic from organic search to begin with.
If mobile is 50% or more of web traffic, how do we capture more of that?
I’m glad you asked. First, “50%” is an industry average; however, we all know that some things are easier to do on mobile vs. a desktop so lets keep some perspective meaning that magic “50%” figure varies by the type of activity. Social media, reading the news and watching videos might be well over 50%. Browsing (for stuff to buy) might also be strong on mobile but more transactions might take place on a desktop. You really have to gauge this well to establish how much potential there is for mobile traffic to your site, separating the exploring from transactional bits too.
Overall, this is what you should be doing:
- If not already, migrate to a mobile friendly website that utilizes responsive design
- Consider launching a mobile app
- Monitor and measure organic mobile traffic separately
- Optimize the existing mobile experience (UX)
- Remember: this algorithm update affects sites on a page-by-page basis so optimize higher-level page templates first
- Improve page speed: While not called out in this latest algorithm update, page speed is important and might become a ranking factor for the mobile algorithm in the future so improve page speed to hedge current and future risks. Consider that mobile users are impatient and will bounce if the page doesn’t load after 1 sec.
If you’re on mobile, so is your audience
Again, no need to panic but it’s time to take mobile seriously. By the way, what do you think of the mobile experience on go.sap.com?