On Tuesday, April 21, Google is making a major update to its mobile search algorithm that will change the order in which websites are ranked when users search for something from their phone.
The algorithm will start favouring mobile-friendly websites — ones with large text, easy-to-click links, and that resize to fit whatever screen they’re viewed on — and ranking them higher in search. Websites that aren’t mobile-friendly will get demoted.
This change could be apocalyptic for millions of websites, which could suddenly find that they have lost their coveted ranking, so it has earned the nickname “Mobile-geddon.“
Small businesses are generally seen at greater risk, because they have a higher likelihood of not knowing about the update, or not having the time or resources to make changes, Itai Sadan, CEO of website building company Duda, told Business Insider.
When we asked small businesses and webmasters what they thought of the update and whether or not they were prepared, we got a flood of emails. Here’s some of what we heard:
I didn’t know the change was coming
Jasdeep Narang owns a web development agency called Metaware Labs, but he had no idea this algorithm update was happening on Tuesday: “I just came to know about this after reading your article. I’ve spoken to a few clients now and none of them know about this either.”
The bright side: about 70% of his clients have mobile-friendly sites already.
I knew the change was coming, but the process of making my site mobile-friendly was too difficult
Gregory Nemitz runs BeefJerky.com and he said he had trouble making his site look good on both desktop and mobile, but didn’t have the money to develop a separate mobile site.
He writes: “My site pre-dated Google by several years. I worked many hours to make changes to my website so it would function well on both desktops and mobiles. After wasting a lot of time accomplishing nothing, I determined that the two goals are incompatible.
“Mobiles need a website address optimised for mobile traffic, and desktops need a site optimised for desktop traffic. Perhaps hiring an expensive website developer could solve my problem, except for the issue of locating the big bucks to pay the overworked developer. I’m about ready to throw in the towel on my 20-year business. It is the premier website address for the beef jerky industry with $US3 billion in annual sales. You would think it could do very well. But I just barely eke out a living that almost supports one person.”
I knew the change was coming, but still scrambled to update my website at the last second
Mitch Goldstone from ScanMyPhotos says that his company sicced its entire engineering team on the preparing for the update: “While in the works for several weeks, we had our entire IT team on this and just made the change on Friday.”
Amber Fehrenbacher, who works for SuretyBonds.com says that her team dropped everything to update its site — after having learned firsthand several years ago how seriously getting dropped from Google’s search results can hurt business:
“My small 5-person team at SuretyBonds.com has been working relentlessly for the last 3 months to get our 1800+ page hand-coded static site to a responsive mobile-friendly format. Somehow, by abandoning all other projects and focusing solely on re-coding our site in-house collectively, we managed to take our mobile errors count in Webmaster Tools from 258 in February to just 27 (the 27 mostly being issues we meant to not immediately address for internal purposes, importance, etc.)
“We offer the largest collection of dedicated information on surety online and depend solely on search results from Google and Bing for driving business. We also were hit severely by the Penguin & Panda updates over 2 years ago so we learned our lesson to say the least.”
Marketer Tricia Meyer runs a few different websites. Some are ready for Google’s update, some aren’t:
“I am a small business with many sites but only one programmer. Our experience was to start first on the sites that mobile readiness impacted the CUSTOMER the most first and then make our way through the rest. As a result, we did get our biggest site switched months ago without threat from Google (www.sunshinerewards.com). Some of our smaller sites were switched just in the last week, and some of our sites won’t make the switch at all.
“Our custom coded site took months of development but our WordPress sites were easier to change by changing the theme on the site or adding a simple plugin. We’re anxious to see what happens now that the changes are supposed to be made.”
I didn’t know the change was coming, but I’m prepared and excited
Ed Baker, who runs RedCarpetEntrances.com, which rents red carpets and other services for events, and ChromaWall.com, which sells greenscreens, says that mobile is already driving 37.59% of his sites’ traffic:
“I saw the writing on the wall, but honestly, I didn’t formally know this Google algorithm change was coming. I’m so excited about it now – knowing it is hours away. It will only pay-off for us! We have burned things to the ground and started over more than once (to get it right). This push for mobile-friendly sites is super exciting because we have been working on that. If you have not been working on mobile, video, and overall user simplicity…be afraid, be very afraid.”
Shari Lopatin has a freelance writing business called Shari’s Ink. She hadn’t heard about the algorithm change until reading about it on Business Insider, but looks forward to seeing how it affects her Google ranking:
“I run my company’s website. As a small business owner, I was actually HAPPY to hear about Google’s algorithm change. Since I’ve worked in media and communications for ten years, I knew the importance of having a mobile-friendly site from the get-go. Therefore, when I hired a web developer to set up my website, I specifically requested she use a mobile-friendly/dynamic WordPress theme. With these changes launching tomorrow, Google may actually INCREASE my website’s rankings, giving me an advantage over other businesses that were not as mobile savvy. For this reason, I appreciate the change, as I’m still building my client base.”
Google first announced its impending changes back in February, giving webmasters nearly two months to make the changes necessary to keep their sites from disappearing from mobile search results, as well as a way to test whether their sites are mobile-friendly yet (and see why not, if they aren’t).
But the update is still expected to cause a major ranking shake-up.