In early May, Google introduced a second mobile rankings update. According to some analysts, the impact on page rankings has been small, especially when compared to changes after the first mobile rankings update. However, every move by Google is keenly followed by marketers trying to establish an advantage over their competition, and at the very least the update itself is further proof that Google intends to reward mobile-friendly web design.
More than 50 percent of web queries are now made on mobile devices. This fact alone should be the impetus for business owners to re-configure their website. There are few businesses out there that can afford to neglect 50 percent of their target market and still expect to turn a profit. Keeping up with change is more important than ever, and the number of non-mobile-friendly websites still functioning this far into 2016 is quite surprising.
Does the recent update matter?
So how significant was the update? To the layman, the change appears negligible and hardly worth worrying about. On the other hand, to use an example from nature, a landslide can be triggered by a small pebble. As momentum builds, that same pebble becomes part of an unstoppable force that can literally move mountains. In other words, the Google mobile rankings update in organic search isn’t expected to be immediately noticed in a big way, but the long-term effect of the change can’t be ignored. Recent analysis by Stone Temple Consulting confirms this projection.
The mobile rankings update needs to be seen as part of the bigger picture. Google algorithms employ a vast array of analytical measures that determine page rankings, and the mobile rankings update is simply the most recent strategic manoeuvre. The analysis of top 10 ranked pages appears underwhelming on the surface, with positive and negative changes shared almost equally by both mobile-friendly and non-mobile-friendly URLs.
The survey findings
In the survey, carried out after the recent update, more than 18,000 search queries were examined. The findings revealed only a 1% improvement in top 10 mobile-friendly URL rankings – from 74% to 75%.
This nominal change seems insignificant, but can also be compared to a second set of data examining the real movement of top 10 URLs. The pages were tracked in late April prior to the second mobile update, and again in late May a few weeks after the update. Here are the results.
- Non Mobile-friendly gain: 20.8% loss: 36.3%
- Mobile-friendly page gain: 22.6% loss: 32.1%
In this survey, mobile-friendly URLs performed slightly better. However, the findings also reveal a significant number of top 10 mobile-friendly URLs lost ranking in comparison to those that gained ranking. According to Eric Enge, from Stone Temple: “This tells us that other general ranking tweaks made by Google carried more weight during the same time period (for these 18,000+ queries) than the mobile friendly update.”
The first Google mobile-friendly update in April 2015 had a much greater impact on page rankings.
- Non mobile-friendly gain: 19.5% loss: 46.6%
- Mobile-friendly page gain: 30.1% loss: 25.4%
Keep updated or get left behind
Every Google mobile rankings update has an effect, though some updates appear less impressive than others. This can lead doubters to stall website development or become complacent when confronted with progressive trends. But, as they say, time waits for no man, and such tardiness can result in a website disappearing from view and languishing on the virtual scrap heap.
The alternative view taken is that the mobile rankings update is significant simply due to its existence, regardless of its immediate impact on browsing habits. Also, although Google algorithms can be retired if proven ineffective, they are often also tweaked and enhanced in a succession of strategic moves, and shouldn’t be ignored.
An example of this progressive approach is the commitment by Google to include page speed as a mobile ranking factor in future updates. Mobile browsing isn’t only a convenience; it’s also for people ‘on the go’ who have little time to wait for a page to load. In a world where immediacy matters, many users escape from a website if their patience is tested for more than a second or two.
Additional ranking factors are certain to be added to the mix in future mobile updates, and it’s only a matter of time before getting on-board the mobile-friendly juggernaut will become essential rather than optional.