Over the past week MozCast (a search engine volatility tracker), in addition to a number of other related tools, reported that Google’s organic search results were particularly unstable. Mozcast’s weather forecast indicated that a significant 97 degree peak occurred on May 10th, with the 11th surpassing 90 degrees too.
While it is indeed common for us to see some level of disparity within the search engine ranking pages (SERPs), Moz typically records levels at around 60 to 70 degrees – the highest ever being 113 degrees way back in June 2013. To provide some additional sense of scale, the first Penguin update resulted in a staggering 93 degree spike – which was dwarfed by the peak on May 10th.
a more comprehensive overview
Evidently we would anticipate SERP fluctuations of this magnitude to be replicated across all of the major SERP trackers, and this is largely what we are seeing – although with varying degrees of scale:
Rank Risk Index
Advanced Web Ranking
As is visible from the above figures, there is certainly a high degree of correlation between the two dates in question and widespread SERP fluctuations – further substantiating claims that alterations had indeed been made. So, I can hear you all asking, what caused the huge variations in rankings?
ANOTHER MOBILE ALGORITHM UPDATE?
Well, not quite… All of the SERP tracking tools listed above only currently monitor desktop rankings, essentially negating the possibility of the measured instability being due to further mobile UX updates. This therefore begged the question of whether there were weighty desktop related algorithmic changes made to the search engine. Google’s John Mueller, a Webmaster Trends Analyst, all but quashed this notion by stating on Twitter that he was “not aware of anything crazy” but that “there are always changes” made to the algorithm.
Gary Illyes, another of Google’s analysts also chipped in to affirm that these changes were not as a result of any major algorithmic updates and instead lightheartedly pointed the finger at Mozcast’s Dr. Pete for instigating such debates.
While the origin of the SERP tracking fluctuations remains rather obscure, Google has since confirmed that this week modifications have been made to ranking factors associated with mobile friendliness.
Way back in February 2015 Google announced that it would be implementing a new mobile ranking algorithmic update (#Mobilegeddon) as part of radical changes to introduce mobile-friendly and app indexing ranking factors. This purportedly revolutionary update became a huge focal point of conversation within the SEO and online marketing community, eventually culminating in overtly widespread panic for webmasters across the world. The news of this impending release effectively forced webmasters to ensure that their websites were fully optimised for mobile devices so that they stood somewhat of a chance of remaining competitive.
Subsequent to the initial April 2015 rollout, marketers debated the relative significance of the update. Many argued that the impact of the paradoxically named Mobilegeddon update was somewhat negligible and was certainly not reminiscent of the D-Day scenario that many had anticipated.
Fast forward to March 2016 and Google announced that there would be further augmentations of the previous update that would effectively lead to a heightened ranking uplift for mobile-friendly sites. Yesterday John Mueller announced via Twitter that the second stage of the mobile-friendly update had been fully rolled out.
WHAT DOES ALL THIS MEAN FOR ME?
If you have already taken steps to ensure that your site is mobile friendly then there is nothing for you to be concerned about, you will likely see little effects from this update or if anything a marginal uplift. However, observations of unusually adverse mobile traffic or ranking deviations over the past few days may indicate an issue, in this instance it is critical for you to assess your website’s mobile user friendliness – Google has a tool for this. If you find that your site is currently providing users with a poor mobile user experience, then your traffic decline may be as a direct consequence of the latest mobile update.
Fortunately, all hope is not lost, Google confirmed that due to the real-time nature of this particular update – any future implementations designed to improve the mobile friendliness of your site should result in a measured uplift in mobile organic visibility. Ultimately however, the growing impetus placed on mobile user experience by Google is likely to increase further moving forward. While it is currently still possible to rank well for mobile related searches with content that is not mobile friendly, this may not be the case forever. Now is the time to review your site to ensure that it provides an excellent mobile user experience to the growing prevalence of mobile users on the web.
4Ps isn’t just another SEO agency. To discuss how SEO and analytics are evolving together to reflect changes in search engine algorithms and technology, give us a call on +44 (0)207 607 5650 for a no-obligation coffee and chat about data, marketing and user behaviour across all inbound channels.