For a number of reasons, transparency with media companies and the beady eye of the EU watching its affairs being two prime examples, Google chose to be a lot more upfront about its latest algorithm change. Mobilegeddon, as some media observers have christened it, is an attempt to ensure that sites work as well on mobile devices as they do on desktop. In some ways it is a long overdue move given that around 60 per cent of searches are now conducted on phones.
The news of the update was given by Google in a blog post back in February. It gave publishers and website owners a date (21 April) by which they needed to ensure that their sites were mobile friendly as well as a tool they could use to check to see if their sites complied. Although it should be noted that the tool works by URL, so even if it deems a home page to be mobile friendly that is no guarantee that the rest of the site will be.
Along with a series of guidelines was the warning that if sites did not comply they could see their search engine traffic on mobiles drop significantly.
What actually happened?
So what has been the implications of Mobilegeddon? There were expected to be some high profile casualties with both the BBC and Daily Mail’s archives rumoured to be not ready for the change.
Almost a week on and the dust seems to have settled and much of the talk among search engine focused sites is that the effect of Mobilegeddon has been nowhere near as drastic as some critics had feared.
Very few sites appear to have lost ranking status or seen a significant fall in traffic. On one hand this maybe because Google hasn’t finished the update – it has indicated that it could take as long as week to process everything – but it does seem that many publishers have heeded the search engine’s warning and made their sites work better on phones.
The most definitive list of winners and losers so far has been compiled by Searchmetrics. It developed The Mobile SEO Visibility, a KPI intended to measure Visibility differences between Mobile and Desktop performance based on identical search volume calculations.
It points to a significant drop in mobile traffic to Ft.com as well as the community news site Reddit. It also highlights how some media sites like the Washington Times and Newsweek have seen a minor increase in mobile traffic since the tweak.
The big unknown is whether sites who haven’t complied with the new guidelines and have lost traffic will see it return should they amend their sites.
The other key issue is how much does this really matter for publishers anyhow. In a slightly cynical piece in The Register Kelly Fiveash argued that Mobilegeddon would only cause publishers to lose a few pennies.
She believes that the bigger issue for publishing is how to make money from mobile readers. Fiveash argues
‘Mobile remains a tough place to rake in ad revenues – even for the biggest players out there today. Which is arguably a key reason why some website owners have been slow to invest in the mobile biz.
In June last year, former Financial Times Silicon Valley scribe Tom Foremski claimed that ‘even Google was ‘having trouble with making money from mobile ads. So, its latest algorithm switch may be bad news for websites that suck on mobes, but it won’t solve the problem that businesses of all sizes face with shrinking ad revenues as the transition to mobile builds.’
Ultimately what the industry needs next is more effective ways of monetising mobile traffic. Over to you, Google…
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