Google gave warning back in February that there would be a major update to their algorithm to expand the use of mobile-friendliness as a ranking signal. In keeping with their 'Don't be evil' slogan, they wanted to give everyone a few months to prepare—or bury their heads in the sand.
- Check out what Google had to say about the changes (it prefers to call 'Mobiletopia')—here.
There could be digital and marketing teams scratching their heads in front of their analytics in the next few days. Either saying ‘what was the big deal?’ or ‘oh shit, where has everyone gone?’. We shall see, but Google's Zineb Ait Bahajji is quoted as saying that the mobile-friendly algorithm will impact more sites than their Panda or Penguin algorithms.
I decided to run the top 65 New Zealand-based sites through Google’s Mobile Tool to see how ready they are for this change. Rankings were taken from Alexa.
Here's the raw data of the test:
While many sites depend on organic rankings to varying degrees the test is a small insight to the priority large sites are putting towards their mobile experience.
The good, the bad and the ugly
Overall, 78 percent of sites passed the Google test. Many of the sites that failed to do so are on what I see as technicalities. All our major e-commerce, media and finance sites have both robust mobile sites and apps available.
The highest ranked site to fail is ird.govt.nz, which is a hodge podge of partially responsive design elements that don't seem to fit any screen size. I will use this excuse next time I try to file my tax return from my iPhone.
Fishpond, Bookme and Pricespy are the most notable e-commerce sites that fail the test. I hope they have a plan as in my experience this sector is already seeing over 50 percent of visits from mobile and tablets.
In the most ironic result, 2degrees fails the test.
TV3 is sitting on the fence with their homepage failing while the 3News sails through.
Overall, the most common reason for sites failing is having links too close together with a fifth of sites suffering from this.
The direct impact of the algorithm change still remains to be seen but, with paid and organic search strategies often being inexorably linked, the effects will be seen to apply to those beyond the SEO department.
For anybody who depends on conversion or interaction through their site, not having a mobile strategy will rapidly start to hurt. The proportion of people accessing the web only through a mobile device is growing. Not being there, testing, innovating and communicating means you are essentially invisible to a whole segment of the market.
It’s easy to forget how quickly mobile has become a channel. We are still in the infancy of leveraging location and the always on nature of personal devices. We will see genuine innovation in these features this year, especially from ecommerce sites.
When even small changes like putting a yellow box around your mobile shopping cart can lead to $256,000 increase in sales, then there is plenty of road to run.
- James Kemp is the director of Growth HQ. (firstname.lastname@example.org)