Google’s Mobile Friendly Update: Not A Disaster, But An Opportunity

In light of Mobilegeddon, contributor and former Googler Kaspar Szymanski reminds us that a focus on user experience drives Google search strategy -- and should drive yours, too.

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Today marks Mobilegeddon, the day when Google’s mobile friendly update officially launches. As the apocalyptic nickname suggests, this event is causing some anxiety in the SEO industry — yet, I believe this anxiety (and the scary nickname) is not truly merited.

By the time you read this article, the mobile friendly update will likely already have begun its global rollout. At this point, hasty updates to websites are unlikely result in increasing visibility for mobile queries overnight. While the actual impact is expected to be significant, quantifiable data allowing for drawing any conclusions won’t immediately be available.

More importantly, the focus for online businesses should not be just this single update. As with previous (and future) Google updates, understanding that algorithm changes will always be directed towards measurably improving Google users’ experience (rather than impacting the visibility of any particular website) remains the best strategy for “algo-proofing” your website.

Why Mobile? Why Now?

While keeping up with Google blog posts and announcements is valuable, continually adapting user experience marketing for your own online business goals is critical. Doing so includes creating sites easily accessible to your target audience through all devices — and specifically mobile devices, as that market segment continues its considerable year-over-year growth.

This is the path Google takes and the one that influences algorithm updates. Google focuses entirely on adapting their core services to current demographic and technological trends, and businesses that likewise focus on these things will find their websites largely unaffected by algorithmic shifts such as the mobile friendly update.

In this case, the current technological trend is the rapid and staggering growth of mobile. According to IDC, a total of 1.3 billion smartphone units shipped worldwide in 2014. This represents a staggering 27.7% growth from the 1 billion smart phones sold in 2013. By comparison, worldwide PC shipments in Q2 2014 were estimated at 75.8 million units — a negligible 0.1% growth from Q2 2013.

Both trends are generally expected to maintain their trajectory. As even more users make their everyday queries from mobile devices, visibility in mobile search engine results pages (SERPs) is critical and relies on site owners maintaining an evolving mobile strategy.

It’s Not The End Of The World

It’s important to note that not every website may be affected by these trends — or Mobilegeddon itself — in the same way. While users may benefit from a website optimized to cater to mobile devices in most cases, some goods or services are better suited than others to be searched, reviewed, evaluated and potentially purchased through a smartphone/tablet/wearable. Most commodity items and services (unlike high value purchases) tend to fall into that category.

Even so, almost every site can benefit from an optimized mobile experience, if not by directly driving up sales, then by improving click-through rate (CTR) at the first point of contact. In this sense, Google’s mobile friendly update serves to underscore the importance of user experience. More than a threat to SERP visibility, it represents a significant opportunity for online businesses to evolve their mobile strategies.

Be Proactive, Not Reactive

Rather than find yourself playing the catch-up game, what is the best course of action to anticipate future user trends? The silver bullet lies in creating sites that meet user expectations when first experienced in Google SERPs.

Even today, basic on-page optimization principles are often neglected, despite their role in conveying, through a snippet, the most important message a site sends to a user: “This is the page you are looking for.”

Once that objective is achieved, it’s all about exceeding user expectations as he or she interacts with the website. Fast page load speed, short internal navigation paths, and intuitive content and information design — all these elements lead towards building a lasting relationship with users, establishing and maintaining an online brand, and fostering loyalty in the online community.

Businesses that understand and apply these principles tend to be more robust and suffer less under temporary losses of visibility in organic search. They also often enjoy more SERP real estate than their competitors.

User experience marketing is a blueprint for a long-term success strategy that ultimately renders search flukes and algorithm updates — large or small — relatively insignificant for the website operator.

Contributing authors are invited to create content for Search Engine Land and are chosen for their expertise and contribution to the search community. Our contributors work under the oversight of the editorial staff and contributions are checked for quality and relevance to our readers. The opinions they express are their own.

About the author

Kaspar Szymanski
Kaspar Szymanski is a founding member of Search Brothers and a well-known search expert specializing in recovering websites from Google penalties and helping websites improve their rankings with SEO consulting. Before founding, Szymanski was part of the Google Search Quality team, where he was a driving force behind global web spam tackling initiatives. He is the author of the ultimate guide to Google penalties.

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