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The era of the computer search is gone. Now that mobile phones have quickly taken over computers as the most used piece of technology, if you are a website provider whose website is not mobile-friendly, expect to see a dramatic drop in overall traffic until your site can function optimally on a phone. It is as simple as that. People nowadays want what is easy, what is fast. And using a mobile phone to look something up on the internet has never been simpler.
This may seem like a lazy millennial’s take on why mobile search engines have seen a boom in the past couple of years. Well, this may be because you may have not heard about Google’s infamous Mobilegeddon. Whoever the Geniuses are that work on Google’s game-changing algorithms were at it again, after Google had announced that they wanted to help their website reflect the increase in mobile-friendly websites, as well as searches made from smartphones. If you are one of those people who have yet to hit the whole smartphone hype-train (at least for use outside of its use as a communication device), then this is a little article to try and get you back up to speed on why this has become such an important thing these days:
At its heart, you might ask yourself why people aren’t looking up a website on their laptop. Well, the 21st Century has a habit of outdating things very fast (ask Tom from MySpace). While computers were initially made to surf the web, they have become a bit of a burden. Even with a small laptop that isn’t hard to lug around, you’re still going to have a far easier time just whipping out that iPhone and doing a quick search with that. This is just the way the world works, though. Computers, even laptops, are now mostly beasts best kept at home – the bulk of your important research is going to be done on that, but often using websites you patronize regularly regardless.
Mobile phones, however, are how you discover a website. Google Searches are such a common thing, as everybody uses it. Google, like a mobile phone, is convenient. The two together act as the perfect medium for performing searches whenever you want, wherever you want.
Also consider, say, the Android’s ability to make a search. Seeing as how you can log into a Google+ account with ease and surf the web on your Android almost as easily as you do the Chrome laptop browser – while accessing the same content because of their innate interconnections – one would think that the searches you make on a laptop, through Chrome, and the searches that you do on an Android would be almost identical. However, Google’s Mobilgeddon (an awesome ranking source that covers the mobile-optimizing abilities of the websites that Google covers – which is, as you are aware, a lot) has shown that over a steady period of time, mobile and desktop searches have only become more different. This means that, even if you search the exact same phrase on your Android as you did your desktop, you are going to get different results based on the exact same wording in your search. In all, the findings were that mobile search results were an astounding 69% different than desktop counterparts, with the same phrases used and everything.(http://searchengineland.com/mobilegeddon-beginning-not-ending-220512)
And, as mobile phones have taken over desktops as the source for search engine usage, this means that a business such as Google is only going to work on their mobile optimization, and include the websites which have done the same. All other websites that are focusing on their desktop performance are going to be disappointed when they find that they are losing traffic to their site solely because they didn’t optimize on mobile phones as much (http://searchengineland.com/mobilegeddon-beginning-not-ending-220512).
This isn’t just for any old website, either. According to PEW Research, even media sites such as FOX News (which is generally joked to have such an old audience that they don’t even know how to work mobile phones yet) have had a mobile usage increase over desktop usage (http://www.journalism.org/2015/04/29/digital-news-audience-fact-sheet/). It is interesting, because entities such as the New York Times, which has been around for since about forever, has seen its mobile usage increase exponentially within the past few years as well (http://www.journalism.org/2015/04/29/digital-news-audience-fact-sheet/). Even Yahoo, one of the prototypical homepages in the early ages of the internet’s expansion in the early 2000s, now sees more mobile usage than desktop. So if you are any regular, old business owner, you should actually be worried.
This may not seem like an issue that should cause a lot of pause, but it is one of those things that is going to build constantly until you find yourself falling out of a bubble of people who have worked their way in to a mobile-phone friendly world. Even if your site is clearly better, people aren’t even going to know that it exists, because they’re not going to be looking for it on a desktop, and not actively searching for it on their smartphones.
While Google’s Mobilegeddon acted as a ranking system of sorts, it also acted as an unintended predictor. This update optimized mobile visibility for searches, and while it only measured what the results were when the ranking algorithms were put into place, that increased visibility made it so that people who were in a good position when the rankings were finally released, stood only to gain from the “apocalyptic” update (http://searchengineland.com/post-mobilegeddon-update-impact-catastrophic-predicted-221772).
Search Engine Land reports that a content marketing company, BrightEdge, did research as to the effects of Google’s mobile-friendly revolution. BrightEdge found that non-mobile friendly websites saw a 17.3% decrease in visibility on the first results page after Google’s update, and a 21% decrease on pages two and three (http://searchengineland.com/post-mobilegeddon-update-impact-catastrophic-predicted-221772)! And while there have been findings that common brands (both product and corporate), such as Coca Cola, Wal-Mart, etc. have not felt much of an effect by this mobile optimization, that doesn’t mean there is not incentive for them to make the plunge as well.
See, regarding that PEW study: a brand such as CNN or Yahoo are going to be searched for anyway because people know the name – a Google Search isn’t necessary to find out what it is they do – but if they find themselves being visited on mobile more often, then there is no reason not to optimize their mobile-friendliness. See, these companies can afford it without a problem, and their doing so is going to be noticed more quickly than small, unknown websites who have had mobile-friendly websites for years already. So Coca Cola, along with CNN and Yahoo, have no reason not to make the switch over to mobile-friendliness.
Rushed Response to Mobilegeddon:
That’s just the thing, too. Many people were skeptical of the overall effects of Google’s Mobilgeddon (Jayson DeMers at Forbes called it “a little less than apocalyptic”) http://www.forbes.com/sites/jaysondemers/2015/05/11/5-lessons-we-learned-from-mobilegeddon/#cd2bad1db480), because the results didn’t quite seem as dramatic as promised. However, these were reports from people who expected game-changing results in the course of a week or two.
Yes, the internet got much better, must faster over a few short years (and continues to grow). Yes, smartphones grew exponentially overnight it seems. However, there were always the test-runs. The U.S Government had working desktops since around the 1960s. They were huge things, about the size of a whole room, and could do less than the weakest smartphone on a bad day. Yet in the 2000s, micro technology reached a point where, once it was possible to do, it got easier and faster and cheaper.
Mobilegeddon is going to have a similar effect. It has been over one year since the product’s debut, and that in a way is almost like the initial announcement of the iPhone. Okay, maybe not that game-changing, but think about it in a similar vain. With a year to only get better and expand, mobile phone friendly websites have only become more prevalent. Now you look foolish if you try to outsource the updating of your website and don’t have the extra cash to shell out on the optimization of your mobile version of the site. It’s not an afterthought anymore. At one point, having a website to go along with your company was an afterthought, until Google Searches became prevalent and soon made the website more logical to use. Aren’t smartphones going through a very similar renaissance?
Oddly enough though, Search Engine Land describes the website Moz’s forecasting of the initial results of Google’s major breakthrough, and it definitely can be described, as DeMers did, as being not as apocalyptic as was once promised. Prior to the opening days of Mobilegeddon, Moz found that no less than 66% of websites that they run through their own algorithm had the tag “mobile-friendly” regardless (http://searchengineland.com/post-mobilegeddon-update-impact-catastrophic-predicted-221772). During the height of Mobilegeddon, that had jumped to around 73 or 74% (http://searchengineland.com/post-mobilegeddon-update-impact-catastrophic-predicted-221772), which is a significant increase no doubt – but when you are promised something apocalyptic, the expectations are just a little higher than that.
Now with Mobilegeddon 2016 currently underway, though, (http://www.didit.com/mobilegeddon-2016-google-doubles-down/) one can only expect for the algorithms to heavily favor the mobile-friendly websites even more. Of course, Google claims that the websites with the most quality content will be the ones most unaffected by these ridiculously-named Search Engine Revolutions, but a good question to ask is – is that a bluff? You might be asking how one codes an algorithm to grade quality content, and there is information that is available to make it possible, probably (time spent on a page per click? Social Media sharing? Who knows?). However, that seems like a fairly misleading comment made by Google so as to assuage some fears regarding a seemingly arbitrary algorithm based on mobile-friendliness.
Why else create something like Mobilegeddon if Google is still putting the highest amount of focus on quality content? It seems as if they gave up on that ages ago, instead preferring to give precedence to the weird tracking system that makes note of a person’s given searches and doles out search engine hits that are run through an algorithm to optimize the likelihood that that person is going to click on the links that are produced? If Google has so effectively made itself appealing on a subject-by-subject basis, then isn’t Mobilegeddon yet another attempt to hone in on that? With the first algorithm, they get the person-by-person web traffic going through Google. By prioritizing, now, mobile-friendly website, Google has a broad scope with which to then make their individual search algorithm more powerful.
So if you haven’t picked up on this by now, and are the proud owner of an awesome desktop site…go optimize your mobile! Still focus on producing “quality content”, but make sure that content can be read by a teenager who would much rather read a poorly researched article in Biology class than actually pay attention to the teacher. It may cost a little more money to be able to do so, but if you are trying to remain competitive now after the years of Mobilegeddon, you are only hurting yourself by not having a user-friendly mobile site.
In an age where technology just continuously grows, one of the most important things as a business owner that one can do is keep up with that technology as best as one can. Because if you get in on the ground floor of something, the first test-run of the new technology is going to suck, and it isn’t going to seem worth it. However, once that technology has developed, as people and other business owners get used to the new-fangled invention that has just become popular, you will have years of experience with that already.
It is always valuable to be able to say you got into something as soon as it started, however. Right now, if you are working toward building a mobile-friendly website, well, you missed out on that train a while ago. Yet it isn’t a step that you can skip in hopes that something new and more popular comes around soon. Get on the mobile-friendly train as soon as possible. With the 2nd Annual Google Mobile Renaissance reaching its precipice, now is the time. Or else your business is going to be worse off for it.
The Google Mobile Friendly Update & Mobilegeddon Explained. (n.d.). Retrieved May 15, 2016, from http://searchengineland.com/library/google/google-mobile-friendly-update
Meunier, B. (2015, May 07). Mobilegeddon Is Beginning, Not Ending. Retrieved May 15, 2016, from http://searchengineland.com/mobilegeddon-beginning-not-ending-220512
DeMers, J. (2015, June 18). Post-Mobilegeddon Update: Is The Impact As Catastrophic As Predicted? Retrieved May 15, 2016, from http://searchengineland.com/post-mobilegeddon-update-impact-catastrophic-predicted-221772
Barr, A. (2015, July 15). Google’s ‘Mobilegeddon’ Was a Big Deal, After All. Retrieved May 15, 2016, from http://blogs.wsj.com/digits/2015/07/15/googles-mobilegeddon-was-a-big-deal-after-all/
DeMers, J. (2015, May 11). Retrieved May 15, 2016, from http://www.forbes.com/sites/jaysondemers/2015/05/11/5-lessons-we-learned-from-mobilegeddon/#4e8fe10a1db4
Baldwin, S. (2016, March 17). Mobilegeddon 2016: Google doubles down | Didit. Retrieved May 15, 2016, from http://www.didit.com/mobilegeddon-2016-google-doubles-down/
Olstead, K., & Shearer, E. (2015, April 29). Digital News – Audience: Fact Sheet. Retrieved May 15, 2016, from http://www.journalism.org/2015/04/29/digital-news-audience-fact-sheet/