Google’s mobile algorithm change set to hit brands’ search performance

Brands are under pressure to improve their mobile websites following an update to Google’s search algorithm that favours sites optimised for mobile devices.

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From today (21 April) brands offering a poor mobile experience risk falling sharply down the Google search rankings. The update has earned the moniker “mobilegeddon” to reflect the far-reaching consequences it is likely to have for businesses that rely on online customers for their growth.

Google sought to prepare website owners for the change in February when it launched a mobile-friendly test that allows developers to check whether sites meet the search engine’s criteria. This includes testing the legibility of text on mobile screens, the ease of navigation within mobile sites and page loading times.

A study by website TechCrunch found that 44% of the Fortune 500 companies in the US failed the mobile-friendly test. The BBC also confirmed today that sections of its own sites failed the test.

The change is likely to hit small businesses even harder given that many are much further behind in their mobile strategies than big corporates.

Google insists that the update is necessary as around 50% of searches are now conducted from mobile devices.

Peter Fitzgerald, country sales director at Google UK, compared the reluctance of brands to invest in their mobile sites with the reluctance of certain retailers to invest in ecommerce ten years ago.

Speaking to Marketing Week, he said: “With mobile there has been a real lack of investment to date and that needs to change. Hopefully this [algorithm update] will help to spur that.”

Fitzgerald claimed the update will help brands to integrate their online and offline strategies by encouraging consumers to use their mobile when shopping in stores. He added, though, that “more advanced attribution solutions” are needed to better show the link between mobile search patterns and offline sales.

“Brand satisfaction goes up radically when the mobile site works, so conversion and loyalty goes up,” he said. “All of this is going to benefit a lot of the businesses that put the investment behind better apps and better mobile sites.”

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