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3 Months Later: Measuring Impact of Google’s Mobilegeddon Search Algorithm Change

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Three months have passed since the term “Mobilegeddon” was coined after Google launched its algorithm change to boost the mobile search rank of mobile-friendly websites and likewise drop that of non-mobile friendly sites.

The drama leading up to the change resulted in somewhat of a let-down when media coverage of immediate results reported only slight changes.  But a couple of recent studies based on a broad look at the impact of Google’s algorithm change confirm the importance of mobile sites.

A study by Stone Temple Consulting that looked at over 15,000 search queries and the resulting top 10 results concluded that Google’s algorithm did give a big boost to mobile sites.  Mobile site URL’s outperformed non-mobile URL’s in both a greater number of sites that gained rank and fewer sites that lost rank.

30.1% of mobile friendly sites gained rank compared to only 19.5% of non-mobile friendly sites.  And only 25.4% of mobile friendly sites lost rank compared to almost 50% of non-mobile friendly sites.

Adobe also tracked webpage performance from organic search visits for 5,000 sites before and after Google’s Mobilegeddon.  They found that every week since the launch, non-mobile sites have experienced a negative impact in reduced organic traffic peaking at an over 10% reduction in traffic over Memorial Day.

Some may question the relatively minor difference in the gain in rank between mobile and non-mobile sites.  But there’s a logical explanation – for those sites ranked near or at the top prior to Google’s algorithm change, the margin for improvement is small or null.  The potential to drop, however, is limitless.  In other words, a site ranked number 1 pre-change cannot gain in page rank and many of those high ranking sites went mobile and maintained a high rank.  Had those sites not optimized their sites for mobile devices, it is likely the loss number for non-mobile sites would be even higher.

The algorithm change not only affected organic page rank, it also changed prices in paid search.  In order to make up for the lost organic traffic, marketers bought more mobile ads to drive traffic via SEM.  Adobe’s clients experienced a 16% increase in cost per click.

And mobile sites have an advantage in mobile SEM as well – one factor (albeit less important than price) that Google factors in prioritizing search ad placement is quality of the landing page from the ad.  And, you guessed it, mobile optimization affects that quality assessment as part of Google’s new algorithm.

Thus, the impact of Google’s algorithm change has indisputably and materially changed the mobile search landscape and is likely to be even more important as more updates are made and as mobile search continues to grow.

Need some help with your mobile strategy?  Check out my article from earlier this year, “10 Trends & Tips to Consider in Creating a Winning Mobile Strategy for Local Search and Marketing.”

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