After weeks of speculation and outright hysteria, Google’s ‘mobile-friendly’ update started rolling out on Tuesday – and all eyes are now on mobile search results to see what impact it makes. So far, there isn’t much to report, but Google did warn us it would be a slow rollout and it could take weeks for us to see the full effect.
Even so, it’s been eerily quiet following the update and some marketers even questioned whether the update had rolled out at all. But data is starting to show signs of a gradual impact on mobile SERPs – just as the search provider instructed – and now it’s more a question of how far the update will impact non-optimised websites.
How big a ranking factor will ‘mobile-friendly’ be?
Google has told us its mobile algorithm update will hit more sites than Penguin and Panda, but quantity doesn’t tell us how severely these sites will be impacted. It’s still not clear how big a ranking factor mobile optimisation will be, or how much change we can expect when 70% of mobile results on page one were already ‘mobile-friendly’ before April 21st.
This doesn’t leave a lot of room for movement on page one and, even though we know Google is serious about mobile, content still has to be the priority. The search giant has made this point quite clear in the build up to the update too.
As Google puts it: “The intent of the search query is still a very strong signal — so even if a page with high quality content is not mobile-friendly, it could still rank high if it has great content for the query.” After all, it doesn’t matter how good user experience is on any device, if the content has nothing to offer.
The impact on small businesses
The first reports we’ll get on significant drops will be the high-profile cases and the guys over at Moz are ironically one of the early ‘victims’. We haven’t seen any big names take a major tumble yet, but there are a number of brands to keep an eye on over the coming weeks, including: Amazon, Foodnetwork.com and Google’s own YouTube.
But what we really want to know is how this will affect small businesses in mobile searches. Local SEO could be where we see the biggest impact for smaller brands – so keep an eye on your position for local, mobile searches and remember it could take a couple of weeks to see any change.
If you’re worried about Google’s mobile update, the good news is you can get your site optimised on a page by page basis, meaning you can work on the most important pages first. You can also expect a quick recovery, because Google will restore your search presence as soon as it sees your pages have been optimised – while the update only affects mobile SERPs, not desktop or tablet.
You still have time to go mobile
So it’s certainly not too late to get your website optimised to Google standards, but keep in mind there’s way more to a ‘mobile-friendly’ site than the search giant’s requirements – and the whole point of mobile optimisation is to deliver a better user experience for people, not to keep Google happy.