Mobile“Mobilegeddon” Proves Inconsistent for Non-Mobile-Friendly Sites

"Mobilegeddon" Proves Inconsistent for Non-Mobile-Friendly Sites

Two weeks after Google changed its algorithm, mobile-optimized sites seem to be getting preferential treatment, though non-mobile-friendly sites aren't necessarily ranking lower.

Now that it’s been two weeks since “Mobilegeddon,” as Google’s recent algorithm update has been known around the Internet, we’re taking a look at the changes. So far, the results have proven inconsistent.

Surveying more than 20,000 URLs, content marketing platform BrightEdge found that by April 27 – not quite a week after the algorithm change – there was a 21 percent decrease in the number of non-mobile-friendly URLs on the first three SERPs. Compared with 17.3 percent on page one, the decrease was more pronounced on pages two and three: 20.7 and 25.2 percent, respectively.

BrightEdge hypothesizes that because other ranking factors are generally weaker past the first page, the mobile-friendliness had a bigger impact. Looking into the update, Larry Kim, founder and chief technology officer at Boston SEO company WordStream, found that non-mobile-optimized sites were largely wiped out, excepting branded searches.

“[It] makes sense because it would be dumb for Google to not send branded searches to the brand site just because their site isn’t optimized, but basically for every other type of keyword, they’re favoring other sites,” Kim says. “Mobile-optimized sites are basically gaining whatever the non-mobile optimized sites are losing, so we’re talking pretty big wins here.”

American Apparel – whose site still fails Google’s Mobile-Friendly Test, which cites its too-close links and too-small text – is the first hit for “Best American apparel,” but is nowhere to be found on a search for “Best American clothes.” The latter search favors brands like All USA Clothing and Bills Khakis, which aren’t nearly as well-known but have mobile-optimized sites. Meanwhile, American Apparel’s first appearance is a Yelp review for a Los Angeles store, which shows up on page five.

At the same time, Ryanair, another big-name company without a mobile-friendly site, has actually moved up in the rankings from our last test. On a search for “budget airlines,” Ryanair has moved up to page one, though it’s worth noting that none of the other budget airlines have optimized their websites for mobile, either. However, the actual budget airlines still rank lower than aggregate sites, such as CheapoAir and Skyscanner, which do pass the Mobile-Friendly Test.

“That tool tells you you’re missing [mobile-friendliness], but maybe there’s some other element in the back-end that we don’t see that determines the mobile-friendliness of a Web page, but the test only gives you boilerplate suggestions and recommendations,” says Colin Guidi, director of SEO at 3Q Digital, a Bay Area digital agency.

“We have to understand that mobile-friendliness is a single ranking factor,” he continues. “There are more than 200 ranking factors that determine the position of websites. I think the community as a whole is fixating on this because Google rarely lets us know [about changes in advance].”

Before “Mobilegeddon,” Google said the changes would be bigger than Panda and Penguin. Because the new algorithm was announced two months in advance, Guidi thinks many marketers had ample time to become more mobile-friendly, lessening its impact. He adds that a fast downloading speed will likely get a page ranked higher than a site that’s mobile-friendly but takes longer to load.


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