Mobilegeddon 2016: Google Doubles Down

March 17th, 2016: Yesterday, March 16th, Google announced on its Webmaster Central Blog that “beginning in May, we’ll start rolling out an update to mobile search results that increases the effect of the ranking signal to help our users find even more pages that are relevant and mobile-friendly.”

SEO professionals have been banging the drum about the need for businesses to upgrade their sites for more than a year now

The post was brief — just a few hundred words, authored by Google Software Engineer Klemen Kloboves — and it left several important questions unanswered. The degree to which the May 2016 rankings change will favor mobile-friendly sites (and disfavor mobile-unfriendly sites) wasn’t specified, nor was the exact date in May when the change will be effective.

But the significance of the announcement was not overlooked by the SEO community, which closely followed the issue last year — dubbing it “mobilegeddon” — and took pains to analyze the actual rankings changes occurring in the wake of the original Mobilegeddon deadline of 4/21/2015). After crunching the numbers, and finding moderate — not drastic — ranking changes in the wake of the April 21 ranking change, many concluded that much of the mobilegeddon hysteria experienced last year was unwarranted and overblown.

While this conclusion  might have been correct at the time it was made, only time will tell whether what happens in May is a moderate adjustment — or a major change that will shake up the SEO world as drastically as Panda and Penguin did.

Winners and Losers

SEO for 2017

Obviously, those who’ve invested the time and effort into making their sites mobile-friendly will benefit from the May update. The good news is that a lot of webmasters have been burning the midnight oil in the past year to fix problems related to mobile-friendliness. Didit’s surveys of several segments in the communications industry — including major U.S. PR agencies and New York-based advertising agencies — has shown major progress in terms of making sites more mobile-friendly. For example, the PR agency sector went from a poor 57.3 percent compliance in April 2015 to 75 percent in the 6-month period following Google’s original announcement. Ad agencies have made similar improvements in the past year, moving from 73 percent compliance to 82 percent. Major consumer sites have also generally improved their mobile-friendliness, and also their page speed performance, another crucial rankings factor that will become more materially important in the future.

Will Google’s Announcement Change Anything?

SEO professionals — and even the mainstream media — have been banging the drum about the need for businesses to upgrade their sites for more than a year now, and it’s clearly made a difference. Compliance is improving, and that’s a very good thing.

It doesn’t appear to be a lack of information — from Google, the SEO press, or elsewhere in the media — that’s holding these companies back, but a lack of sufficient will and ability to marshall resources to bear on the problem

Unfortunately, there are still major gaps in compliance, often in the small business sector, which typically lacks the IT resources or ability to bring in SEO agency talent typically enjoyed by large companies. It doesn’t appear to be a lack of information — from Google, the SEO press, or elsewhere in the media — that’s holding these companies back, but a lack of sufficient will and ability to marshall resources to bear on the problem. So it’s impossible to say whether Google’s announcement will have more of an impact now than the original one did last year.

Let us hope that Google’s recent “doubling down” on this issue persuades these holdouts to bring their sites up to date for a mobile world.

At the very least, it will be impossible for any of them to say that they weren’t amply and fully warned.

Is your business site mobile-friendly? Google’s free tool will tell you all you need to know:
https://www.google.com/webmasters/tools/mobile-friendly/

Summary
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Google's March 16th announcement puts the world on notice: get mobile-friendly or suffer the consequences in May 2016.
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Steve Baldwin
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Steve Baldwin

Editor-in-Chief at Didit
Steve Baldwin writes and edits technology content. He lives in Brooklyn and, once a month, conducts free wild parrot safaris there. For more info, see: BrooklynParrots.com.
Steve Baldwin
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