What is The Mobilepocalypse?
There’s been a lot of screaming and prophecies of the End Times since Google’s official announcement about the mobile UX algorithm update due on April 21st. Mobilepocalypse, Mobilegeddon and various other semantically dubious labels have been buzzing around the industry like so many ill-advised mosquitoes, and just like mosquitoes they’re starting to get more than a little annoying.
For those living on Mars or otherwise not yet up to speed, in summary: Google has decided that users searching on mobile devices should probably be served results which offer a good user experience on said devices, so have decided to make a good mobile user experience a ranking factor for mobile searches.
What does it mean for me?
If your site is a nice experience for users on mobile, for example by being fully responsive with a good touch-sensitive design, you’ll get a visibility boost. If your site is not a nice experience on mobile, for example by forcing people to use the desktop version, or a rubbish design that’s impossible to use with a touchscreen, then you’ll get a visibility drop.
Cue screaming, running, rending of shirts and gouging of eyes.
There are those who haven’t kept up with the way the Google wind has been blowing for the last few years, and were still too busy focusing on new ways to game the algorithm, dodge the penguins / pandas and other zoological entities, and some are focused on their siloed view of their business that somewhere along the line they’ve managed to forget about the needs of their users. I wish I could say that every single one of my clients has already set themselves up with responsive or otherwise mobile-serving capable websites as I advised them two to three years ago, but sadly that isn’t the case.
Brands both large and small always have many priorities competing for budget and resource but the needs of customers should really remain central to the entire decision-making process. I’ve yet to see a single set of web analytics that doesn’t show a steady increase in mobile traffic (all too often with a corresponding drop in overall conversion rate) – so all Google and “search rank” arguments aside, your users have needed this sort of mobile site provision for a while now. It would be like still building your physical offices or stores using timber and plaster rather than bricks and mortar.
There’s no denying this is a big deal. The mobile UX update is big enough that Google felt the need to announce it over a month in advance – something which hasn’t happened in some time – and there’s even a warning notice on the top right of Webmaster Central to remind visitors to check their sites.
This shift to actively including UX in the algorithm is enormous. Panda, Penguin, even Hummingbird were mere reshuffles in comparison. You’d be foolish to ignore the fact that this is happening. But…
What if our site isn’t mobile Friendly?
Here is why if you aren’t mobile friendly yet (for whatever reason) there’s no reason to start panicking and running in small circles in anticipation of April 21st:
Chances are (deep breath) it won’t affect your bottom line that much.
However visible you are, if your site looks rubbish and is unusable on mobile then chances are that very few people were converting on it. if you drop in visibility on mobile SERPs your revenue/leads aren’t going to tank – there were no or few conversions for you there anyway. True, some smaller brands might suffer a little at the awareness end of the funnel, but again if your UX on mobile was poor then it wasn’t doing you many favours so again the drop is unlikely to have much impact.
Secondly – and this is the more interesting bit – Google handily confirmed that the mobile-UX algorithm is a real time one. So if you aren’t ready for April 21st but are all responsive and lovely by, say, April 30th, that’s okay – the algo will pick up the new mobile-friendliness as soon as it next crawls (which happens on a pretty much daily basis for most websites) and the moment it does, you start seeing the impact. No waiting for the “next rollout” or anything annoying like that, which means as soon as you fix your site, you’ll start to see the benefits from it. In other words, if you get your skates on and move to responsive (or however you choose to embrace mobile) you’ll only end up losing out until you fix it. That seems fair to me.
Even better, the algorithm has been confirmed as operating on a page by page basis which offers interesting possibilities for sites with only a few key organic landing pages and very limited budgets or a complicated user flow that is going to take a long time to redesign. TNT Express, for example, only have a responsive/mobile-friendly homepage, but if that is the one that pulls in the vast majority of their traffic they might do all right at least on the visibility front. Still not great for users – especially if your conversion funnel is still desktop-only – but for those worried about the brand visibility side of things, it at least gives an immediate term stopgap.
So again, no reason to panic. As Google updates go this one is both fair and relatively friendly. It is out to boost those who do things well, not to slap down those doing things wrong. Review your website tech roadmap, and get mobile user experience in there if it wasn’t already.
Above all, calm down and stop screaming. Please. It hurts my ears.
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