blog, Mobile Friendly, Responsive Design, Web Design

Was it a bang or a whimper? What really happened in Google’s mobile update?


Google’s mobile update was the first time on record that web designers, website owners, and webmasters received advance warning of a change in Google’s search algorithm. It was an unprecedented move – Google have never confirmed or denied the importance of any ranking factor in their algorithm before – and one that sent the global web design community into overdrive.

Web design agencies waited with baited breath on 21st April to see if their responsive designs would pass muster with Google’s algorithm and if their carefully designed mobile websites would appear higher or lower in the mobile search index.

We waited for a big bang… and nothing happened.

Weeks later and the overall change in search engine results as a consequence of Google’s mobile update, or #mobilegeddon as it was dubbed, is ultimately small. Many users and websites saw little difference at all.

So, what was all the fuss about?

Well, according to some sources, the number of mobile-friendly websites increased by 4% as a consequence of Google’s mobile update. When you consider how truly vast the world wide web is, that’s a lot of websites that finally bit the mobile web design bullet and updated their site. But still, in real terms, was #mobilegeddon just something that helped web design agencies to book more work?

Well, not if you’re working at Reddit, Vogue, or Bloomberg Business. According to statistics captured by Searchmetrics, these sites were among the big brands that didn’t have responsive design and who suffered major consequences.

Google estimate that 50% of searches are done using mobile phones (http://searchengineland.com/how-large-is-googles-mobile-friendly-algorithm-larger-than-panda-or-penguin-217026). If that number is accurate, finding yourself kicked out of the mobile search index because your web design agency didn’t employ a responsive design in time is more than a technical headache, it’s a commercial disaster.

On the other side of the coin, there were also some big winners. Websites like TV Tropes, Wired, and JC Penny all saw significant increases in their visibility in Google’s mobile search index (according to Searchmetrics). The Huffington Post was actually reported as both a big winner and a big loser – a consequence of Google swapping visibility of the huffintonpost.com domain for the shorter (and mobile enabled) huffpost.com domain.

So, are you a winner or loser in the aftermath of #mobilegeddon? If you’re a loser, perhaps it’s time you found a new web design agency.

Photo: Google Earth by Johan Larsson licensed under Creative commons 4