Google mobile update: don’t expect fireworks today for Mobilegeddon

The impact of Google’s mobile-friendly algorithm is expected to be more significant than Panda and Penguin combined – but don’t expect to see the full impact today as the algorithm will take weeks to roll out.

The Guardian is reporting that the Mail Online, “the world’s largest English-language news site, for instance has never introduced a mobile-friendly front page and will likely suffer.”

Correct in so far as that the Mail’s homepage is not mobile-friendly, but the algorithm is expected to affect websites on a page by page basis and the Mail’s search rankings for its content pages are likely to remain intact. Most searches arriving on the Mail’s homepage will be for brand related terms which Google will always show the site for, regardless of algorithms, so I think it is unlikely that one of the high profile casualties of the mobile-friendly update will lose much traffic at all.

Publishers are far from immune from the update, but the smartphone zeitgeist means that publishers still getting significant traffic will almost certainly have to be presenting a good mobile experience already. On the contrary, high authority, mobile-friendly websites such as the Telegraph and Independent will likely gain significant traffic as some the 25 per cent of the UK’s biggest brands who are not ready for the mobile update fall out of the search results.

The travel sector often sees some of the most significant fluctuations after algorithm updates due to its competitiveness, but the timing of ‘mobilegeddon’ is more significant for this industry than most. Six of the top 20 travel brands fail the mobile friendly test which means that huge amounts of traffic will change hands over the coming months – crucially as consumers begin to plan their summer holidays in larger numbers.

With the algorithm running in real-time, businesses that have missed tomorrow’s deadline will be able to recover lost rankings as and when their websites pass the mobile-friendly test. Unlike Panda and Penguin it will not be a case of websites waiting for the algorithms to run be rolled out again before they can regain lost traffic (sometimes months apart, with Panda last updating in October and Penguin in December) – it’s likely that the site will be reassessed as Google crawls it.

The update will affect mobile results but not tablets at this point. Also only organic search results will be affected, with Google My Business listings, answer box results and Google News not utilising the mobile-friendly algorithm at this point.

However mobile usability has been a factor in the Quality Score used by AdWords since 2011, so although the algorithm does not affect paid search listings at this point this could prove to be a huge sticking factor in the coming months: businesses losing organic (free) search rankings as a result of not having a mobile-friendly website may end up with much, much higher CPAs on AdWords as a result of what Google deems their poor mobile experience, which could make buying back lost traffic more costly. Mobilegeddon is Google’s first update where AdWords cannot be your brand’s safety net.

Stephen Kenwright is head of search for Branded3

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