Google’s Mobile Update: Too Much Hype?

By Simon Ensor
SEO , Web Design 23.04.2015

Like many heavyweight boxing matches of recent times, after much talk and speculation the end result was….well….slightly underwhelming. Google’s wrath did not rain down upon non mobile ready websites causing mayhem and uproar on mobile SERPs. So what has been the initial reaction from the SEO world 48 hours after #mobilegeddon rolled out across the globe, in all languages?
Babies and Bathwater

The first thing to mention is that Google themselves have announced that the effect will not be immediate. In Google’s Webmaster Central blog they state that “it’ll be a week or so before it makes its way to all pages in the index”. Googlebot crawls the most popular and authoritative websites more regularly than those further down the digital food chain, following links to travel between sites. A potential hypothesis could be that websites that are regularly crawled by Google (and are naturally popular) are more likely to be mobile-friendly anyway so their rankings are unlikely to change. Clearly many holes in that argument but an interesting thought. The main point is that we should not be jumping to any conclusions when Google have explicitly stated that it will take a little while for the update to fully rollout. If your site has not yet been crawled then you will not have seen any impact. So let’s not throw the baby out with the bathwater and have a little bit of patience. Barry Schwartz at Search Engine Land (amongst others) has been actively commenting on the rollout and its effect, read more here.

We passed!

On that note, Yellowball’s website has been crawled and we have passed the test with no drop in rankings. However, we have had our ‘mobile friendly’ tag for months now, which brings me onto another point. This is not the first of Google’s mobile updates. In November 2014 they brought out ‘mobile friendly’ tagging for websites in mobile SERPs. They did not explicitly say that this would affect the order of their results but it does not take a huge leap of faith to think that if they were able to judge a website on how it displayed on mobiles then they could incorporate this into their algorithm. As a result, we may not be seeing a polarised effect due to previous rollouts that have slipped under the public’s radar.

Did Moz lie about tracking results?

moz blog post

This morning Moz released their initial results from their Mozcast which tracks 10,000 keywords and their results. There was very little change. What should be noted though is that even though multiple members of the Moz team (including Rand Fishkin in a Whiteboard Friday) claimed that Moz’s website was not mobile friendly because they wanted to track the results by switching after the update, as predicted a few days ago this appeared to be too large a gamble. By 8am UK time on 21/4/15 Moz had made their blog mobile friendly. Should Moz now forever be considered liars and chickens? Not necessarily. Whilst it would have been great to see their entire site remain unresponsive it does raise a couple of points.

  • Moz’s blog has high value content on it and is likely to be a very large conversion tool for their subscriptions. It would appear that it was not financially viable for them to experiment with potential lost rankings and therefore traffic.
  • Moz have only made their blog responsive, not the rest of the site highlighting the fact that this is a page level change rather than a site level change. Therefore, if you were to identify the pages that you would like to retain rankings for and to make them responsive, they would retain their rankings even if the rest of the site was unresponsive. At least that’s what Google have said. We would advise that this would not only be difficult to execute whilst keeping the website design cohesive between pages but also would create a poor user experience.

Can we expect more noticeable results over the next week?

Mobile friendliness is not the only ranking factor taken into account by Google. In their own words:

“Note that this is just one of over 200 signals we use to evaluate the best results”

High quality content is just an example of one of the other ranking signals that could potentially help you retain your rankings without a mobile friendly site. However, as Googlebot digs deeper and deeper into the index we think that the effects will be more widely seen. This is because the websites that have not yet been crawled are likely to be less authoritative or popular, and therefore have less powerful ranking signals. As a result whilst a website such as might have a reasonably poor ‘mobile friendly’ score, it scores very well for other signals and so will most likely retain its rankings. On the flip side, a website with the same ‘mobile friendly’ score which lacks other ranking signals will most likely see a larger effect over the coming week or so.

In the end, whilst this initial reaction to the update may seem like nothing much has changed, Google is actively encouraging websites to make sure that they display correctly and have great user journeys no matter what device they are viewed on. Sooner or later everyone will be forced to join the line or be banished from the SERPs.  As a mid to long term strategy, being mobile ready is a wise choice.

Now for a shameless plug (it is our blog!). If you are concerned about your website not being mobile friendly you can read more about our website design and also about the SEO services that we offer. Alternatively just give us a call for a chat 01322 861 478.

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