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Mobilegeddon: A Complete Guide to Google’s Mobile-Friendly Update

What Was Mobilegeddon?

Google posted this message on the official Webmaster Central Blog, as they sometimes do, and explained the update in brief detail accompanied by a picture to show the difference between what mobile-friendly was and wasn’t.

mobile-friendly update

This update provided no grey area. Your pages were either mobile-friendly, or they weren’t. There was no in-between.

That day in April was the official rollout of the update but wasn’t the only notification that Google gave webmasters.

Mobilegeddon: It’s Closer Than You Think

On February 26, 2015, more than two months before the official rollout, Google posted a message telling us that they would be extending the use of mobile-friendliness as a ranking signal. This change was coming on April 21 and that we needed to prepare.

In the April 21 post, Google gave a quick three bullet list of what this update would impact:

  • Affects only search rankings on mobile devices.
  • Affects search results in all languages globally.
  • Applies to individual pages, not entire websites.

The change was straightforward and massive. Your pages were either mobile-friendly or they weren’t (a yes/no response) and it would impact everyone and roll out over the course of a week.

No matter what industry you were in, whether you sold soap or built bridges, your site would be impacted.

Google Goes Mobile-First

This was not just an algorithm update, it was a cultural shift, and Google was about to move the market.

A common misconception about Google is that they are obsessed with making search folks’ lives more difficult with changes like this. This, however, isn’t true.

Google is obsessed with improving the user experience as much as possible and aligning it with user behaviour and trends in the market.

This update wasn’t really about organic search. It was about responding to consumer behaviour, which was trending in the direction of mobile.

Google made a decision to pivot and adapt to consumer behaviour. And it was the correct decision for Google.

Why does Google care so much about a user’s experience with their search engine? Mainly because the bulk of their revenue still comes from paid ads. They want to provide the best experience possible so people keep clicking on them and funding their free lunches and robotic dreams.

So far Google has been second to none in anticipating and pivoting to search trends. Google’s crystal ball is real, and it works.

Was Mobilegeddon’s Impact as Catastrophic as Predicted?

We were told the impact of the mobile-friendly update would be greater than Panda and Penguin.

MozCast Mobile Temps

It was an interesting point of view at the time, as page speed and load times had just started to enter mainstream conversations as major ranking factors. This was probably the beginning of the shift in folks’ mindsets towards a faster experience equaling better results. You wonder if Google baked that in as part of this update as well, but there is no data supporting that theory.

These analyses, along with many others, confirmed what most were seeing: there wasn’t that much of a traffic and ranking impact at all.

Overall, this became a headscratcher for a lot of search marketers, because most folks weren’t seeing a measurable impact. Of course, there were some outliers who got hit and took to the message boards to curse Google’s name to the depths of hell. However, for the most part, this update didn’t produce huge ranking shifts across the board, which in retrospect, is probably what Google wanted all along.


Mobilegeddon 2.0

About a year later, on March 16, 2016, Google announced that they would be strengthening their mobile-friendly ranking signal in early May and giving a stronger ranking boost to those who complied.

Google’s official post started off in a very similar way that the original post:

The Legacy of Mobilegeddon

In the end, Google both proved and learned a few things were possible with this update:

  1. They can enact change beyond traffic and rankings, and get people to change how they design their sites to accommodate the market.
  2. Not every algorithm update has to be a confusing mess to understand.
  3. When you give people enough time to prepare and understand a change is coming, you can avoid inciting a riot.
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