If last year’s “mobilegeddon” didn’t convince companies to make their sites more mobile friendly, perhaps Google’s latest move will. The search company has announced it will be boosting the importance of mobile-friendliness of sites when ranking them in its search algorithm.
Although it might sound like a relatively minor tweak, the change could have a major impact on companies that still haven’t developed versions of their sites geared toward mobile users.
Google said that the change won’t have any impact on companies that have already established mobile versions of their Web sites. For those that have not, it is providing a mobile-friendly testing tool and a mobile guide for webmasters.
The changes will take effect at the beginning of May, so webmasters still have a little time to get their sites ready. But the clock is ticking, and the consequences of ignoring the change could be severe.
Google’s first effort to incorporate the quality of a site’s mobile experience -- dubbed “mobilegeddon” -- began in April of last year and threatened to completely alter established SEO rankings. The results were not good for Web sites deemed to have low mobile engagement.
A study of consumer activity on branded sites from Q2 2014 to Q2 2015 conducted by Adobe found that organic traffic to sites with low mobile engagement fell by as much as 10 percent in the first few months following the change in Google’s algorithm.
That decline in organic traffic had a big effect on marketing budgets, too. The loss of traffic forced enterprises to bid up the cost of paid mobile search, with the cost per click rising 16 percent year over year, while the click-through rate fell nine percent over the same period. In other words, enterprises ended up having to pay more for less traffic.
The Best Answer Possible on Any Device
“Getting good, relevant answers when you search shouldn’t depend on what device you’re using,” the company said in a statement yesterday announcing the change. “You should get the best answer possible, whether you’re on a phone, desktop or tablet.”
Google has good reason to be concerned about how well sites appear on mobile devices. Web traffic from mobile devices is growing faster than from desktops and laptops, and will soon eclipse it entirely. Google has also made other efforts to improve the mobile experience, such as its Accelerated Mobile Page (AMP) project.
AMP is an open source initiative that seeks to optimize the mobile pages for news publishers by providing technical specifications as to how they can reduce unnecessary code, scripts, and ads that might slow sites down.
For enterprises, however, the benefits of developing mobile-ready sites aren’t nearly as obvious. According to last year’s Adobe study, visitors using mobile devices generate much less revenue per visit than those using desktops.
Image credit: Google; iStock/Artist's concept.