As you're probably all aware, the internet completely fell over yesterday in the aftermath of Google's Mobilegeddon update. Defunct websites left many businesses unable to trade, forcing them to send staff home. OK, not really, everything went on as normal. I'm not trying to wind you up. Well, maybe a little! Is Mobilegeddon really that significant? After all, the apocalypse hasn't hit and the Four Horsemen aren't stalking the land. Probably.
The Time of Plague
In the internet services world, Google casts a long shadow. On 26 August 2013 every single Google service went down and worldwide internet traffic collapsed by 40%. So when Google makes a change to its search engine, it's well worth paying attention. So what's Mobilegeddon all about?
More than half of all internet traffic comes from mobile devices, but countless websites have been created on regular PCs. Smartphones aren't as powerful as PCs and the displays are a fraction of the size. This can cause problems like
- text being too small
- menu text being too close together causing selection problems
- websites extending horizontally beyond the edge of the screen
- long page loading times
- unplayable content
With more than half of all internet traffic coming from mobile devices, Google's decided that this is the time to place greater weight upon how mobile friendly websites are. There's no reason for websites not to be mobile friendly, and it isn't a 'one or the other' scenario in which desktop users suffer. Modern websites, like the ones I design, are responsive, meaning that they'll automatically reflow to mobile devices. In effect, Google's search engine is now less likely to find non-mobile friendly webpages from mobile devices (desktop and tablet searches will be unaffected). The update is worldwide, affecting every language, and will take about a week to affect all indexed webpages.
If you haven't got on top of this now, then it isn't too late. You should have the problem resolved by now as we've known that this day has been coming for a long time. If you haven't got to it yet, then your website isn't about to meet the reaper man's scythe. The good news is that pages are treated individually, so you have the chance to work one page at a time, bringing websites up to a mobile friendly standard piece by piece. You can then either wait for Google's search engine to re-crawl each page to detect that it's mobile friendly, or you can use Google's Webmaster Tools to force a manual re-crawl.
The Time of Famine
Google's sucking life away from the non-mobile world for all it's worth, but just how many bodies have been strewn across the internet in the wake of Mobilegeddon? Put simply, it's too early to tell. I know, I know, you probably want concrete answers, but as I said earlier, the update hasn't completely 'taken' yet. Also, a sample size of 1 day is too small to be meaningful. In the meantime, the best thing you can do is keep an eye on your website analytics to see how many visitors are coming to your site. It'll be worthwhile understanding the effect upon your website if it isn't mobile friendly. I'm looking forward to seeing whether mobile friendly sites see an upswing in mobile internet traffic.
So let's speculate about what could happen for a few paragraphs. The websites of many big companies aren't viewed as mobile friendly. I'm dubious as to whether their fortunes will be affected though, as companies like Microsoft and Nintendo already have such a strong profile that they don't need to worry about SEO (Search Engine Optimisation) to anything like the same degree as the rest of us.
The websites of small companies are a different matter. We can't afford to leave things to chance. We can't afford to take risks with the discoverability of our website. Nothing guarantees business, but given that more than half of all internet traffic comes from mobile devices, can your business risk losing that much traffic? This is where the danger could lie, for businesses and people who don't keep up-to-date with topics like this, for businesses who don't pay attention to their out-of-date, mobile unfriendly website. No, it isn't the end of the world if the problem isn't resolved today, but the longer it goes unresolved, the greater the danger for you.
I'm expecting to see many smaller businesses with out-of-date websites experience famine in their mobile internet traffic. I'm not stupid enough to predict what the time frame on that will be, or what kind of fall they'll experience, but I'm going to be keeping an eye on the latest in SEO for the first batch of stats.
The Time of War
So is Google declaring war on mobile-hostile webpages a good thing or not? It risks a lot of websites tanking in the search rankings for mobile devices. To get serious for just a moment, many businesses risk being hit by these changes. Many of those sites might have had a website designed years ago before mobile internet traffic was the big deal it is today. Maybe the webmaster was the son of a friend who's now got a full-time job and can't make time to put things right. Maybe the business has lost touch with their webmaster, leaving them locked out of managing their own online presence. In this last case in particular, I'm sympathetic. I've heard of it happening, so it's hard to be harsh. On the other hand, Mobilegeddon is an example of what can happen if you leave problems like an unmanageable website in the hope that you'll never have to deal with it. If there's one thing we should all know by now when it comes to technology, it's that everything changes sooner than we expect.
In essence, this has a lot in common with the Panda updates to Google's search engine. Google wants internet users to have good, trouble-free experiences with websites and is willing to make low quality, poor experience websites harder to find. Mobilegeddon is therefore a natural progression from Panda. Hopefully it'll put an end to infuriating sites where you try to tap on one link only to hit the one next to it, and to endless zooming so that you can read the microscopic text. We'll have to see how it plays out in practise before we decide whether it's a good thing or not, but if it matches Google's intentions, then the internet user in me is going to view this as a good thing.
The Time of Death
You've got a little time to put things right, but this issue can't be ignored just because it's inconvenient. You need to get on top of this issue to keep your site from becoming more and more invisible to people on mobile devices. You don't want your website to become a pale ghost slain by Death's cruel scythe. So take a deep breath and get on top of the issue.
First, take a look at Google's mobile friendly test page. Enter your website address where it tells you to and take a look at the result. If your website is declared mobile friendly, then great. It's still worth reminding your webmaster to do this themselves, not least because this test can still reveal minor issues that could need resolving. If your website is declared mobile unfriendly, then you need to point this out to your webmaster straight away and find out when they're going to resolve the issue.
What if you've lost touch with your webmaster though? What if you're all-alone in this? I'm not unsympathetic, but if you value internet traffic and your online presence at all then you need to do something about it. If you don't, then your website will become that pale ghost. If you're willing to face Death head-on, then it might be time to get a new website. I know you'll be dreading the expense, but get in touch with a web developer like me anyway because we're not robots. We're often small business owners too, so we might be prepared to offer reasonable terms. What you'll get from it at the end is a mobile-friendly website that's responsive in nature. In the land of the Four Horsemen of Mobilegeddon, responsiveness is king!
So is Mobilegeddon serious? Yes, it isn't just a lot of SEO nerd talk, it could have a serious affect upon your business. Mobile internet traffic has already blown past the 60% mark as a proportion of all traffic and there's no sign of it stopping yet. It'll slow eventually as saturation points are reached, but by then will people be so used to mobile friendly sites that they'll shun anything that isn't anyway? Look these 4 cats in the eyes and try to convince them that you'd be happy at being unable to attract over 60% of all potential business you could generate from your website...
Are you responding to Mobilegeddon straight away? Are you concerned about how this big change could affect you? You can let me know in the comments.