Posted on 20th April.
By in Featured, News, Online Marketing, Search

I was going to write a blog post next week after I’d seen the initial impact of Google’s mobile algorithm update, but I was annoyed at how some news agencies are reporting the update. Sky News were the one that caught my angry eye: “Websites not deemed mobile-friendly will be dropped down the search rankings, dramatically reducing the number of visitors to a site.”

This is over-dramatising a fair bit. So I’ll write this now and update the post next week, when we have some more data.

Update a few weeks later:
I haven’t compiled the stats completely yet – but there hasn’t been much change in organic rankings. I’ve monitored around 10 clients, and at this stage it seems inconclusive as to whether passing Google’s “mobile-friendly” test helps. The rankings of some “mobile-friendly” websites have actually dropped slightly on mobile search (by less than 1 place, on average), and there hasn’t been any noticeable shifts in organic traffic from mobiles or tablets. There are far too many factors to take into account for such small changes, but it’s definitely not the “Mobilegeddon” that some media outlets predicted. It’s just another one of Google’s 200+ ranking factors.

WILL be dropped down the rankings?

Mobile-friendliness is already a ranking signal – one of over 200 that Google have in their algorithm. “Starting April 21, we will be expanding our use of mobile-friendliness as a ranking signal.” (emphasis by me) is Google’s official line.

Non mobile-friendly websites won’t definitely be dropped down the rankings, though there is a good chance some rankings will drop a place or two.

DRAMATICALLY reducing the number of visitors?

That depends on how many of your Google visitors come from mobile.

On e-commerce websites I have data access to, that varies from around 20% to 50% (in Google Analytics you can see this at Audience > Mobile > Overview – it needs to be segmented to organic traffic only, and if you want to get even more accurate, Google-only).

Google Tweeted that tablets will not be included in this update. However, there will probably be some false positives, so some tablets might be treated as mobiles in Google’s search results, and vice-versa.

So if your website gets 10,000 visits a week, 25% of that is from mobile, and a further 50% of that organic traffic, then 1,250 of those visits could potentially be impacted by this update. So if your website isn’t “mobile-friendly”, you might lose a percentage of that 1,250.

If you have a well-known brand amongst your niche that ranks 1st for the brand name in Google, your brand isn’t likely to lose its top ranking because of this update.

Maybe you have some high-traffic keywords that rank 1st in Google, more that rank in the top 5 – I’m not going to work out exact estimates (I’m clocking off for the day in 1/2 an hour) – but it’s likely that these keywords don’t account for a huge proportion of that 1,250 figure I’ve pulled out.

There have been some estimates on how much traffic websites are likely to lose, “How Much Traffic Will You Lose From The Upcoming Google Mobilegeddon?“, takes one example and says it could be less than a few percent of total traffic. I’ll reiterate that all websites will be affected differently.

Google stated that the update could take a week to roll out, so we’ll know more soon. I’ll update this post next week when things might have settled down a little.

I also have issues with how Google’s mobile-friendly test defines mobile-friendliness – it’s a good start, but just because your website passes Google’s test, it doesn’t mean it’s easy to use on mobile devices. That’s a whole other blog post, so make sure your web development team/agency are not just slaves to the Google tool, and don’t listen to anyone who says you’ll lose a huge percentage of your traffic unless they have the data (including your current Google traffic from mobile devices) to back it up.

Any questions? Are you concerned by the mobile update? Feel free to leave a comment.