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Measuring the Effect of ‘Mobigeddon’

It’s been just over a week now since Google rolled out its latest big algorithm update that was designed to pick up sites on how mobile-friendly they are and rank them better. Google said that the update would take about a week and a half, or perhaps a couple of weeks, to roll out fully, which means that we should already be seeing the effects in search results.

I’ve seen varying degrees of interest around the web, with some making rather grandiose claims that the update would alter traffic by as much as 50% (I have no idea where the publication in question got this number, nor did it respond to queries about it – so it’s an easy one to disregard) whilst others claimed that it wouldn’t have very much impact at all. Whatever the case ‘Mobigeddon’ or ‘Mobilegeddon’ as it has been dubbed by various sites, has been the talk of the net for the past month or so.

Firstly, it’s worth noting that whilst the update will have some impact, it doesn’t affect desktop organic search rankings, nor does it impact paid search. So if you’re an AdWords user, then don’t worry, your money won’t be wasted if your site is not yet mobile-friendly.

However, if your site isn’t, then it’s really about time that you took steps to improve it. Check out the numbers below if you remain unconvinced that you need to invest in improvements:

  • 94% of people that own a smartphone use it to search for local information
  • 77% of mobile searches are carried out in the office or at home, so smartphone users don’t just search when on the move
  • Mobile users will overtake desktop users by more than 200m this year
  • 72% of people who search for local information visit a store within 5 miles
  • 50% of those who search for local information on their phone visit a store within a day

So if you have a commercial website, and especially if you have a local, bricks-and-mortar business, then you need a mobile-friendly website.

What We Know So Far

According to Moz, which has been studying the effects of the algorithm rollout since it was implemented, thus far we’ve not seen any major changes.

However, the site points out that,

“Even before April 21st, a surprisingly high number of the URLs we track carried the "Mobile-friendly" tag. We don't have a lot of historical data, but the low point was around 66.3% (on April 8th).”

So even before the update began to roll out, there was already a good proportion of sites that could have been considered mobile-friendly. Further monitoring showed that by April 22nd (the day after the update began to roll out)  the amount of mobile ready URLs increased to 72.3% and since then, it’s crept up slightly every day and at the time of writing (28th April), Moz put it at 72.8%.

As Moz point out, this could be because of the algorithm update, or it could simply be an influx of sites that have taken last minute steps to become mobile-friendly, as they knew the update might impact them.

Moz report that so far, there have been no sites come forward to say that they have been winners or losers in the update, which is fairly unusual as we usually see a rash of sites that have been hit appearing on the blogosphere.

Searchmetrics Data

Searchmetrics point out that the “mobile-friendly classification by Google is done URL-by-URL, not on a domain level.” So this means that you’re unlikely to see a site-wide drop in rankings. With this in mind, you should test URLs that are important – such as home pages, landing pages, blog pages, checkout pages, etc. to ensure that they are suitable for mobile.

According to Searchmetrics,

“To make a valid statement, whether – and to what extent – a domain is optimized for mobile, you have to relate the number of mobile-friendly URLs of the domain (if there are any) to the respective number of non-mobile-friendly URLs of this domain (if there are any). It is only then that you are able to draw a more reliable conclusion for a connection of mobile-friendliness and update impact than just looking at the output of the Google Tool.”

This is because the Google Tool, when testing how mobile-ready your site is, only looks at the home page, rather than the site as a whole. So unless you test each page on the site, you won’t have a reliable indicator that the site is indeed mobile-friendly. There are other tools out there that you can use too, such as Woorank (there’s a monthly cost after the week-long free trial) which allows you to see site performance, social performance and more, alongside GT Metrix which measures performance and has also just introduced a mobile testing feature, although it’s currently still in beta.

Based on the current data that Searchmetrics has, it says that there are winners and losers when it comes to this update. However, you should consider these results to be preliminary given that the update is still rolling out across the globe.

When considering these results, it’s important that you take the “Ratio Mobile vs Desktop” into account as it demonstrates the difference between Desktop rankings and Mobile rankings performance. The lower the ratio, the worse the domain in question ranked for mobile when compared to Desktop.

Below are the top five sites that are so far considered to be losers in the update.

Domain Mobile SEO Visibility actual loss in percent Ratio Mobile vs Desktop 874108 -27% -36% 139213 -28% -40% 111042 -26% -47% 10602 -76% -77% 78599 -27% -49%

You can download the full PDF of the complete list of winners and losers so far here.

When checked, it seems that some of the ‘losers’ on the list were clearly affected by the update and this was confirmed by Searchmetrics when they checked the sites against the Google Tool, as they didn’t score as being mobile-friendly. Tests using their own software also confirmed that some sites were already showing Mobile SEO visibility as dropping, whilst Desktop Visibility climbed slightly.

What This Means to You

So it seems that the update has had an effect already, judging by Searchmetrics data and Moz’s study. However, it’s not easy to measure and as Moz point out, other factors could be coming into play. With this in mind, if you’ve already checked your site using the Google Tool, then do check other pages that are important. If you’re finding that some of your pages are not mobile-ready, then it’s time to get on the phone to your web dev and ask for them to be updated.

If your site does need to get updated, then check this post to learn more about your options and getting the site up to speed.

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