Today sees the roll out of Google’s most significant algorithm update in years. In response to mass migration from desktop to mobile, the search engine will now use a website’s ‘mobile friendliness’ as a ranking metric.
It’s great news for businesses who put themselves ahead of the mobile marketing curve in time to reap the benefits. It’s not so great for those lagging behind - many of them big businesses with expensive, unwieldy marketing departments. According to research firm SumAll, a staggering 67% of Fortune 100 companies do not have mobile friendly sites. They can expect their traffic to nosedive now the change has taken effect
The changes - dubbed ‘mobilegeddon’ by some - are perfectly consistent with Google’s track record of responding to shifts in search culture. Mobile traffic has increased, and desktop search has declined correspondingly. For the average user, more likely to access the internet from a mobile device than a desktop computer, the update will doubtlessly improve their experience.
Assuming Google isn’t doing this for purely altruistic reasons, what are their motivations for implementing changes that will not only harm powerful corporate influences but reduce Google’s own ad revenue?
One answer may lie in the question. Google knows it must close the gap between desktop and mobile ad rates in anticipation of a full-blown small-screen revolution. Another possibility is that Google isn’t so much reacting to external trends, but rather influencing consumer behavior. If sites render well on mobile devices, they will become more popular, thus increasing the number of mobile clicks.
The businesses who aren’t ready for this will definitely suffer. They may even claim that the content available on mobile friendly sites just isn’t as good, nullifying Google’s objective to (ostensibly) provide a meritocratic search tool. The worst case scenario for Google is that big companies switch their search focus to Yahoo or Bing, and move their ad spending to Facebook. Such gloomy predictions have always failed to materialize in the past, and Google remains synonymous with search for the majority of internet users.
Nonetheless, it’s a risky strategy. Without ad revenue Google is nothing, but they have proven themselves time and again to be deft at bending with the wind. Whether today’s major algorithmic update will turn into ‘mobilegeddon’ remains to be seen, but as risky as the move may seem, betting against Google is riskier still.