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Google’s Mobilegeddon: How Bad Was It?

Maybe you’ve heard of all the “Mobilegeddon” hoopla; if you have, it likely struck a little fear into your heart, triggering questions around what Google might be up to next. For the past couple of weeks, tech communities internet-wide have been abuzz with the impending change to Google’s search algorithms, which was announced back in February of this year.

The change, which has been coined as “Mobilegeddon”, aims to simply reward mobile-friendly websites with improved rankings in mobile SERP’s. Google spokesperson Krisztina Radosavljevic-Szilagyi commented on the changes recently in an email to NPR where she states the goal of this program is to, “…make sure [users] can find content that’s not only relevant and timely, but also easy to read and interact with on smaller mobile screens”. This seems to be a fair initiative considering that 48% of all searches now take place on a mobile device. Additionally, Radosavljevic-Szilagyi stated in regards to the change that, “The intent of the search query is still a very strong signal – so if a page with high quality content is not mobile-friendly, it could still rank high if it has great content for the query. The ranking update will not make it rank below lower quality pages that are mobile friendly.”

In addition to the change appearing relatively minor and logical in its application, Google announced this change months prior to its release so as to provide companies and business owners with ample time to revamp websites to become responsive to mobile devices. Google has even gone as far as to supply business owners with a new mobile usability report to the ever-expanding bag of webmaster tools to ensure that sites are mobile-friendly before the rollout.

With the internet up in arms over this new algorithm alteration, how exactly has the April 21st release of this change impacted mobile search results?

One Week Later

Now that the Google algorithm change has occurred and been in the process of rolling out for more than a week, many webmasters and tech-heads in the online community are shocked to find the scale of this radical change by Google is… minimal at best. Some shifts have in fact taken place and been duly noted by those watching closely, however, these alterations have not been significant by any stretch of the imagination.

Currently, there are several SEO metrics tracking companies, including Moz, with ears to the ground on this matter. It seems, however, that there genuinely isn’t much to report. Dr. Peter Meyers from Moz is one individual who has been closely tracking the event and was quoted as saying, “so far, the big day was April 22nd, and it wasn’t that big”.

With no major changes occurring, and no real “mobilegeddon” taking place, why exactly has the internet been creating such a big ruckus over such apparently rational changes?

The Fuss Over Mobilegeddon

Here is where the grey areas of this transition really begin to shine through. In lieu of Google’s update, online marketing firm Portent conducted a study across 25,000 “top-rated” websites in an attempt to evaluate just how many businesses are ready for this change. The results of the study found that 2 out of every 5 websites, or 10,000 sites, failed the test and are not mobile ready.

There are many reasons beyond ill-preparedness why these sites have not been outfitted to meet Google’s mobile guidelines. For starters, certain companies simply may not receive enough mobile traffic to justify a mobile counterpart to the site. Additionally, many businesses employ a mobile application in place of a mobile version of the site. These fantastic marketing applications can help to establish a brand and serve just as large of a purpose as a mobile site could. The new changes to the algorithm, however, could in a sense penalize organizations for going this route.

Secondly, for many small business owners and entrepreneurs it may come down to nothing more than finances and profit margins. Ian Lurie, CEO of Portent, was quoted in a statement to NPR saying, “Even if you’re building a brand new website, it’s more expensive to build a website that’s ready and renders well on a mobile device than to build a site that just looks good on the desktop. … It’ll be 25 percent or so higher than building a site that is only desktop ready.” This new algorithm change, however logical it may be, stands to put many small and local business at quite the disadvantage if they don’t find a way to join the mobile brigade.

In addition, many are becoming quite uncomfortable with the power that Google possess online and its ability to objectively define terms such as “mobile-friendly”. This is quite understandable considering that Google was just exposed for bolstering web ranking of their own services over competitors unfairly.

This is one of Mr. Laurie’s concerns as well, stating, “Google is very scary at this point as a controller of Web content.” He goes on to say, “It is a little scary to see them do this, because they’re using their opinion of what a mobile ready website is, and that can mean a lot of different things. Right now, their definition of a mobile ready website seems to just plain make sense. It’s a site that changes shape and size and remains readable on a smaller format device. But they could change that.”

The world is obviously headed in a mobile direction. Each and every year smartphones continue to grow more sophisticated and intelligent. Each and every year mobile continues to grow in its use, and sooner than later mobile will be the dominant platform for all digital needs. If you follow this column, you should already be aware of how important responsive design is and how crucial it is for businesses to adopt and implement. Now is the time to outfit your sites with a mobile design for these changes are sure to only progress from here.

Do you believe that Google’s algorithm changes will produce more significant shifts over the weeks and months? Or was this really just much ado about very little?

About the author


Tina Courtney

Digital producer, online marketer, community manager, and multi-faceted writer Tina Courtney-Brown has been managing cross-functional teams for online businesses since 1996. Tina has assisted many clients in maximizing online production and marketing efforts, and is a staff writer for SiteProNews, one of the Web’s foremost webmaster and tech news blogs. She’s produced and marketed innovative content for major players like Disney and JDate, as well as boutique startups galore, with fortes including social media, SEO, massively multiplayer games, community management, social networks, and project management. Tina is also a certified Reiki practitioner, herbalist, nonprofit director and spiritual counselor. Learn more at her personal website, or find her on Facebook and Google+.


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  • Excellent article.-Thanks.
    Being an online retail business servicing the kid’s sector, we decided to bite the bullet. While very happy with our original website design, the risk of a ranking penalty in not being mobile responsive was too great. While the downtime was considerable, I am now pleased we have poured effort into this. Updates will be in keeping with future consumer habits and hopefully our customers will have a more streamlined and enjoyable shopping experience.

  • Thanks for the article, we’ve seen very different results on different sites, each are mobile ready. Traditional ranking (desktop) has also been very erratic the last two weeks.


  • I think your very right.

    It seems that Google has just pointed out that mobile devices are becoming a big part of the online environment. It’s certainly going to be a bigger influence in the future. Not that mobile devices wont be capable of showing desktop sites, it will be that the display will have to be adapted and sometimes content needs to be adjusted to suit the consumer of that information on a mobile device. The holy grail of this is a responsive site but that is not always possible.

    It does create new obstacles but nothing that can’t be overcome.

  • I haven’t noticed any drop in my ranking since the “big day”. However I did commence having a mobile friendly site built (still in progress) because of google’s announcement.

  • Impact has been zero. If you do a search for phone systems London only position 4 is a mobile friendly web site.

    Our ranking for that keyword has not changed and from my testing nor have any others even though our site is responsive.

    Also why does google not increase the quality score of our ads that point to a mobile site and are targeted at mobile only.

    Very disappointing from my standpoint. Google rules the world of digital and it isn’t right!

  • I disagree with Ian Lurie’s comment that it’s more expensive to build a mobile-responsive website. WordPress has FREE templates available for business owners. There’s no reason why you shouldn’t have a website that’s mobile-friendly — if not for Google, then at least for your customers’ ease of use.

    • I agree that there are free templates for SMB owners, but the problem with those templates is its responsiveness. To develop a mobile-friendly website after spending money on developing a new website is not very cost efficient in my humble opinion.

  • This is a good info. But, there is no need for panic. I got an info in google adsense interface that websites will be affected only for a position in a mobile search, so this google alg. update has no effect on a normal desktop search.

  • Thanks for the info on Google’s Mobilegeddon. My site has always been mobile friendly for past few years so can’t say I’ve noticed any difference. Mobile long tail searches have increased a little though.

  • I would hope that there is more to it than what I’ve seen so far. After being told what a big deal this change was going to be and running around with the “You NEED TO DO THIS NOW” mantra to all my customers…

    To have effectively NOTHING change with ANY of my clients at this point – no doubt makes my clients really question the validity of any Google announcement (or even our SEO take on them). The NEXT time I pass along a warning or alert from Google, it will be taken a lot less seriously.

    On the plus side, it did push some of our clients into getting some much needed mobile improvements so perhaps a better conversion rate, but afa rankings modifications? Haven’t seen it yet. That IS a win, but certainly nothing time critical.

    Thanks Google!

  • I was ready for it. I planned for it a year before. Some of my clients with older websites aren’t willing to make the switch though. Like the author says, Google’s not going to place a responsive website with little information higher than a non-responsive website with loads of information. Content still rules.

  • Just received my weekly Keyword update from “Market Samuri” and it seems my ranking has slipped ever so slightly over the last week for quite a few of my Keywords. This could be just due to normal factors such as normal changes to the website or quality of new content, so the changes are not significant enough to say if the “Mobileagedon” was the root cause or not.

  • Wouldn’t it make sense that Google consider “mobile” factors only for searches from mobile devices? Is there any research into whether that’s the case?

  • Fine, with or without Google’s new algorithm we must build mobile-friendly websites, not just to please Google but to offer our customers a better experience. Greetings!

  • It’s interesting to see that a few of the posts here mention a drop in traditional desktop rankings. In the last couple of weeks, me too, (I have had a mobile site for 12 months). Some of my key words/phrases have plummeted from 1st page to 5th page, coincidence! Googlegeddon have something else going on, trying to figure it out.

  • Majority of people expected to find out that half of the website weren’t going to be working or something similar, some feel offended that the change is not so visible, everybody forgets the main point, technology is changing, PC’s and Laptop will only be used at work the normal person would be using their mobile or watches to access the net, adapt.

  • Interesting to know that the mobile shift on sites was more hype than what has happened. Thanks for sharing.

  • Responsive design is the way to go! Sooner or later they will make the “mobile friendly pages” to rank way better on mobile. It is just a beginning, so that is why we do not see any crazy moves in results

  • Thank you for sharing..
    mobilegeddon is new algoritm from google, so we must have resposive design web on mobile

  • We have a couple of websites, 1 mobile friendly and 1 not. I noticed the changes for the mobile update hit about a month before. It did not affect the website that is not mobile friendly, but the mobile friendly site jumped up in rankings about 1 month before the rollout. I did not do anything at all to this website, because I was working on the one that is not mobile friendly to make it ready.

  • Thanks for the analysis, Tina. Frankly, we were pretty disappointed with the results. However, we regret nothing because going mobile meant improving user experience for our customers – so we’re happy there. Still, I believe being mobile-friendly is the way to go if you want to expand your reach and retain clients.

  • Frankly, I haven’t noticed any drastic drop in the ranking. There is small changes but it might be due to keywords or little old content.

  • I don’t think it was bad or will be bad even in near future. As the responsive screen users are increasing, the responsive pages are very crucial requirement to improve user experience in search results.