It’s been two months since Google warned businesses across the world about its plan to expand its use of mobile-friendliness as a ranking signal, but almost half of top websites are still not mobile-friendly yet.
Google has just launched an algorithm to favour mobile-friendly sites, which means that people may not find their favourite virtual worlds when they use Google to search on their smartphones if the sites they frequently visit have not updated. Google said in a statement that it has decided to institute the change because it wants consumers to “find content that’s not only relevant and timely, but also easy to read and interact with on smaller mobile screens.”
In a blog post announcing the change back in February, Google’s Takaki Makino, Chaesang Jung and Doantam Phan said the change “will affect mobile searches in all languages worldwide and will have a significant impact in our search results.” In March, another Google employee said this change, dubbed Mobilegeddon, would have a bigger impact than its previous algorithm updates, Panda and Penguin. While Penguin affected four per cent of English searcher, Panda altered 12 per cent. Demand Media blamed the Panda update for its US$6.4 million loss, after being removed from top spots. TechCrunch has found that 44 per cent of the Fortune 500 companies failed the mobile-friendly test.
The reason why the new update is more important than the previous ones is because it removes more than just ‘spam’; with this change, Google is trying to alter the way the web is put together. Wired quoted Search Engine Land founding editor, Danny Sullivan, saying that “this update is really about Google’s vision of what the web should be.” The new algorithms could end up demoting sites which are valuable, legitimate, even important, Sullivan added.
Although Google’s update may seem precipitated, as plenty of sites did not have time to make their pages mobile-friendly or they did not even know about the change, the company is not impressed with the problems it may have triggered. Greg Sterling, contributing editor with Search Engine Land told Wired that the change is not only “paternalistic,” but also “very self-interested.”
Google’s own numbers show that about 50 per cent of searches now happen on mobile devices, which means that by improving the state of the mobile web, it makes its mobile search engine more attractive and profitable. In a blog post on April 21, Google said it had seen a five per cent point increase in the proportion of mobile-friendly sites since its February announcement.
The change should not a surprise as 2014 marked the first time when more visitors to Google came from phones and tablets than from desktops and laptops and there have been claims over the years that this was “the year of mobile.”