News

POV: Google Mobilapocalypse

Mindshare Point of View

Background

Last week Google implemented changes to the way its search algorithm operates for organic listings on mobile. From now on the degree to which a site is deemed to be mobile-friendly will be imperative to where it is listed when searches are made on mobile devices. This update could been seen as further indication of Google’s mobile focus, with the impact on organic search results set to be much more poignant than the previous Panda and Penguin algorithm updates, which affected only 12% and 3% of search results respectively.

Details and Implications

The impending changes to the algorithm were first mentioned by Google in February, along with the offering of tools and mobile-friendly testing to help site owners with the mobile optimization process.  Previously, Google has only indicated that a page was mobile-friendly by labelling it as such on search results.

The main factors which contribute to a web page being given the all-important mobile-friendly seal of approval are as follows: responsive in design, suitably spaced text, doesn’t include the need for flash player, and possessing text which is legible without the need for zooming. It is also important to note, that thus far the algorithm changes will not affect tablets or paid search results.

For brands the algorithm updates will result in a demotion in the search results if they do not meet Google’s mobile-friendly criteria. However, Google have stated that when brand search terms are used, even sites which are not mobile-friendly are unlikely to be demoted due to relevancy. Whether brands should seek to optimize their sites for mobile should also been given consideration, as if the types of products they offer are predominately categorized as high consideration, it seems less likely that users will conduct searches for these products on their mobile devices.

Furthermore, as the new changes will not encroach on paid search results, brands not wishing to optimize their sites for mobile could consider running a paid search ad. This will ensure that they are still visible and generating web site traffic. However, there is the distinct possibility that the new change could eventually be integrated into paid search in the future.

Summary/PoV

For brands and advertisers this new algorithm update will definitely make a profound difference to sites Google deems not be mobile-friendly. Whether or not brands choose to invest in optimizing their site, should be based upon the nature of their brand and the importance placed upon being present in mobile searches as compared to desktop searches. This update should also be taken by brands and advertisers, as a reminder of how imperative the user experience is and the need to be constantly evolving.

For Google, this update is a smart move, given reports suggest that around 50% of Google searches occur through mobile devices or apps. It seems entirely logical that users should receive results which are relevant to the device they are currently using. Also, with the impending battle to remain Apple’s default search engine on its devices and the recent release of Apple watch, it seems highly plausible that Google wants to demonstrate its ability to be responsive and adapt to changes in search trends.