Posted on 28 November 2016

Google's ongoing change to the way it ranks mobile-friendly websites - dubbed 'Mobilegeddon' by some - shouldn't be a cause of panic for most corporate communicators, as it's likely to only affect a small percentage of searches for your corporate or business website.

Although if your website has a commercial or transactional purpose, it might have more of an impact, so it's worth looking at your analytics. Either way, it should be a chance to reflect on your mobile strategy.

Why you need to think, and do, but not panic:

  • This only affects mobile search results, and most corporate website usage and search is still desktop-based - for now.
  • Most searches for corporate websites mention the company name, and so aren't likely to be affected. It's still worth checking your analytics though, especially if your site has a more commercial or transactional element than a standard corporate site.
  • Mobile users will still very likely find your corporate site. But what will their experience be when they get there?

You might have heard about Google's change to its search algorithm, which was rolled out not a little while ago. And if you have, you'll have probably read that Google is promoting what it deems 'mobile-friendly' sites in its search results, while demoting sites which it doesn't. (Those of you wondering what we're talking about, or who want the detail: start here on Google's site and read the update here.

The (first) important bit to note is that this change affects searches performed on mobile devices only, and not desktop or even tablet. Most people who access a corporate site aren't doing so on a mobile: for most corporate sites, mobile devices will account for around 10% of visits. So it's highly likely that there aren't many people out there searching for your corporate site on a mobile; most will be doing so on a desktop or tablet, and this change affects nothing as far as they are concerned. Don't be scared if you hear that over 50% of searches are now done on mobile: that's a stat about searches of all types, rather than ones specifically for corporate websites.

Secondly, most people searching for corporate websites aren't searching for generic terms, but instead are familiar with you. That's to say, they are much less likely to search for 'widget maker in Sydney' if they want to access your corporate site than they are to search for 'J. Smith corporate website' because they at least know your name. And if they search for 'J. Smith corporate website', then that corporate website will still come up in the same place in Google's results, regardless of whether that search is on mobile or desktop, because it's still the most relevant site to your search. Google isn't blacklisting sites; it's just promoting 'mobile-friendly' ones, on mobile devices, when a search could lead to multiple relevant sites ie. for non-familiar searches.

None of this is to say that Google's change is insignificant for corporate communicators.

You still need to check your web analytics, to ensure that you don't have unexpectedly high mobile usage or search. Some corporate sites - particularly those which have commercial or transactional elements - might have higher percentages of mobile usage and generic incoming search on mobile, in which case this Google change will have more of an effect. We can help you with that.

Beyond that, it's a good indicator of the growing importance of mobile, and a reminder that if you want to communicate effectively with people on mobile devices - and you surely do as this demographic continues to rise - then you need to have a mobile-friendly site. Even if people can still find your site via mobile, they won't be getting a good experience if it's not mobile-friendly. If your site isn't responsive, tablet users will be short-changed too: many corporate sites will have up to 25% traffic from mobile or tablet devices combined.

The Google change will push the rest of the internet - sites with greater mobile audiences and which are fighting over non-familiar traffic - to deliver mobile-friendly sites, which will continue to drive user expectations of a good mobile experience. You want to meet user needs and expectations, right? Addressing this most likely means a responsive website - one that adapts to different devices - and if yours isn't already, please get in touch as we'd love to help you.

We'll leave you with a thought: if your site isn't mobile-friendly, and you're not bothered about communicating with mobile users, then Google's change doesn't affect you. Google will likely just continue to direct mobile users to a poor experience on your site. But if you care about the growing number of mobile users (and you should!), and want to give them a good experience, then you need to be thinking about mobile - and then doing something about it!

To find out more about getting "mobile friendly" - chat to us today...