‘Mobilegeddon’: The Search for Mobile-Friendly Sites

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Mobile-friendly websites are now heavily favored in Google’s mobile search—and business that have not adapted to the sweeping algorithmic changes are scurrying to comply.

A few months ago, Google released a mobile-friendly test to help brands determine if their sites were ready based on its closely guarded algorithms. The test evaluates a number of factors, such as how fast the site loads, and if there are unplayable videos or blocked image files.

USA Today took a test drive and found major brands on both sides of mobile-readiness. “Companies that need to update their sites quickly included restaurant chains California Pizza Kitchen and Coco’s, fashion icon Versace, candy manufacturer Sees and European airline Ryanair.”

Turns out that 40 percent of the leading sites failed Google’s “mobile-friendly” test and may be down-ranked in search, reports USA Today

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Forrester Research reports that just 38 percent of business websites are currently optimized for mobile—while 86 percent of all US smartphone users search via Google. “Businesses must improve the usability of their websites on smartphones and tablets now, or risk being buried among 177 million websites in Google search,” Forrester noted.

Google’s last big algorithm update, code-named Panda, affected 11 percent of all search results, according to Danny Sullivan, editor, SearchEngineLand website. “It was a big shake-up, and this one could be even more dramatic.”

Sullivan’s website coined the term “Mobilegeddon” in March, a play on the Los Angeles traffic “Carmeggedon” traffic crisis, so named when freeways were closed on several successive weekends. Overall, “as many as 40 percent of top websites are not currently mobile-friendly,” said Sullivan. “There’s a big category of people who have completely ignored mobile.”

Google has been pushing a mobile-centric ethos for years, as US search has risen 5 percent on mobile. In the last three months of 2014, 18.5 billion—or 29 percent of all US search requests—came from mobile devices, according to comScore, as reported on CSMonitor.com.

While many larger brands are already up to Google’s mobile standard, the pressure is on small businesses to adapt. Sites that take too long to load on mobile will be overlooked entirely. “Availability is part of relevancy,” Gartner analyst Whit Andrews told CSMonitor.  “A lot of people aren’t going to think something is relevant if they can’t get it to appear on their iPhone.”

“That a rather obscure technical change gets so much attention underlines how vital it is for online firms to rank highly in Google’s results” The Economist noted. “Sites that do not show up among the first hits are unlikely to be clicked on.”

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