MobileGeddon: The Aftermath

Thumbnail

On April 21, 2015, do you recall anything weirdly apocalyptic happening? Did you notice corpses rise from the graves, the sky splitting open and raining fire, or at the very least a few flashes of lightning? Probably not. We're guessing that April 21, 2015 was just another normal day to you. But was it just another normal day for your website?

What is MobileGeddon?

It's the term coined by web and search engine experts to describe Google's switch to a new search algorithm that would deprioritize web pages that are not mobile-friendly. Searches conducted from computers and tablets wouldn’t change, but those done from a mobile phone would. It makes sense; when you’re searching from your phone, you're more interested in phone-friendly websites. Google is pretty secretive about how exactly their search algorithms work, so all they said was that the impact would be “significant” for phone searches—hence the dramatic nickname.

But what does “significant” mean? Does it mean your non-mobile-friendly website would drop a few positions in the rankings, or a few pages? Or would Google smite thy website from the face of the earth?

The Experiment

We decided to perform a little experiment to find out. As a test case, we chose our client Tekscan, manufacturers of high-tech force and pressure sensors and systems, for a few reasons:

  1. Tekscan has a wide array of products and applications, so we could test a number of different search terms for which their site is optimized.
  2. That said, their niche is very specific, which means there's a narrower field of competitors to look at.
  3. Their top competitors have a mix of mobile-friendly and non-mobile-friendly websites. (Tekscan's new site is mobile-friendly.)

We tested 5 search terms against two different sets of competitors appropriate to each search. We tested these search terms pre– and post–MobileGeddon on desktops and phones to see how the competitors' rankings changed. Granted, it's not a huge sample set, but we figured we could get a general idea of the magnitude of Google’s impact on mobile searches.

The Results

The results were surprising. After all the hype and mushroom cloud imagery, guess what happened?

Not much. Here’s what we found.

Search #1: “Force Sensors”

Company Mobile-friendly? April 17
(desktop + mobile)

April 29
(desktop)

April 29
(mobile)
Change in ranking
Tekscan yes 1 1 1 0
Interlink Electronics yes 55 55 41 +14
Sensitronics no 41 40 33 +7
Measurement Specialties no 5 6 6 0

Notice that while Tekscan and Measurement Specialties stayed in place, Interlink Electronics, a mobile-friendly site, rose a whopping 14 positions in Google on the phone. That seems very significant, until you notice that Sensitronics, also jumped up a surprising 7 positions on the phone despite not having a responsive website. We’re scratching our heads about that one.

Search #2: “Force Measurement”

Company Mobile-friendly? April 17
(desktop + mobile)

April 29
(desktop)

April 29
(mobile)
Change in ranking
Tekscan yes 21 13 8 +5
Interlink Electronics yes 100+ 100+ 100+ n/a
Sensitronics no 100+ 100+ 100+ n/a
Measurement Specialties no 16 9 12 -3

These search results were more in line with what we expected, but still there were no massive changes. Tekscan performed better on the phone, while its non-mobile-friendly competitor Measurement Specialties sank 3 positions. Interlink Electronics and Sensitronics didn’t do well for this search to begin with, so no excitement there.

Search #3: “Pressure Mapping Systems”

Company Mobile-friendly? April 17
(desktop + mobile)

April 29
(desktop)

April 29
(mobile)
Change in ranking
Tekscan yes 1 1 1 0
Pressure Profile yes 9 7 7 0
Sensor Products no 5 6 6 0
XSENSOR no 7 9 8 +1

Here we see a tiny bit of fluctuation on desktop search results between April 17 and the 29th, but the difference between the desktop and mobile rankings post–MobileGeddon is negligible. X-Sensor’s non-mobile-friendly site did slightly better on the phone. Go figure.

Search #4: “Foot Mapping System”

Company Mobile-friendly? April 17
(desktop + mobile)

April 29
(desktop)

April 29
(mobile)
Change in ranking
Tekscan yes 6 5 5 0
Pressure Profile yes 4 2 2 0
Sensor Products no 1 1 1 0
XSENSOR no 100+ 100+ 100+ n/a

These search results were surprising in that we saw no difference whatsoever between the desktop and mobile listing post-MobileGeddon, regardless of whether the site was mobile-friendly or not.

Search #5: “Body Pressure Mapping”

Company Mobile-friendly? April 17
(desktop + mobile)

April 29
(desktop)

April 29
(mobile)
Change in ranking
Tekscan yes 1 1 1 0
Pressure Profile yes 4 5 5 0
Sensor Products no 2 3 3 0
XSENSOR no 6 11 11 0

Ditto. No changes here.

What do we make of all this?

Personally, I feel a little bit the way I felt at 12:01 a.m. on the night of Y2K. I certainly hadn't expected the world to end, but I would have enjoyed a little power outage or something.

Similarly, MobileGeddon doesn’t leave us any exciting stories to tell the grandkids. If you don't have a mobile-friendly website yet, our findings should reassure you that there is still time, and that your website is not going to fall off the Internet. It’s also reassuring to see that providing useful, high-quality content and properly optimizing it is still your top prority if you want to do well in Google.

As for what Google has changed or is going to change, that’s impossible for us to know for sure. All we know is that their intention is to prioritize mobile-friendly sites. Perhaps their new algorithm will do this gradually rather than in one apocalyptic moment.

Should I bother getting a mobile-friendly website?

Of course. It’s a great way to make your visitors’ experience much more pleasant and strengthen your brand. And it’s good to be ready for whatever Google decides to do in the future. Not sure if your site is mobile-friendly or not? Plug your URL into Google's Mobile Friendly tool to find out.

If your site didn't pass, don't worry. The fact that MobileGeddon turned out to be overhyped means you can relax, take a deep breath, and convert your site to a mobile-friendly responsive design when you have the time and budget to do so. Typically, it’s more cost-effective to combine a responsive design conversion with an overall website redesign and/or an upgrade to your content management system, so you might be better off waiting until it’s time to tackle those tasks too. As always, we're happy to chat if you'd like to make a game plan.

Most importantly, the Four Horsemen of the Internets won't be showing up at your door any time soon.

Thumbnail
Hold up guys. Let me Instagram this.

Share the Love