Google’s “mobile-geddon” search changes will affect millions of businesses

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By Larry Banks

On Tuesday, Google will make a major update to its mobile search algorithm that will vastly change the order that websites are ranked when someone searches for something on their phone or tablet.

Google will penalise sites that aren’t mobile-friendly

Google will start to favour mobile-friendly websites, i.e. those with large text, easy to click links and so-called responsive sites that resize automatically to fit the screen they’re being viewed on, and rank them higher in search results. Websites that are not mobile-friendly will be demoted.

Right now, 60% of online traffic comes from mobile devices, and Google is making the change to ensure those users have a good experience whenever they click on a link.

The changes were announced back in February, so webmasters have had almost two months and lots of relevant information to make the changes, preventing their sites disappearing in mobile search results. The update is expected to cause a major ranking headache though for some companies. It’s been nicknamed “mobile-geddon”, reflecting how huge it could be for millions of websites, according to Itai Sadan, CEO of website building company Duda.

“I think the people who are at risk are those who don’t know about it”, Sadan says. And that mostly means small businesses.

“Come April 21, a lot of small businesses are going to be really surprised that the number of visitors to their websites has dropped significantly. This is going to affect millions of sites on the web”, he says.

Many businesses rely on people finding them through local searches, for example if someone typed in “restaurants in downtown Seattle” into Google on their phone. And it’s those companies that may see a sharp decline in physical foot traffic as a result of this update.

“Google has always been about relevancy, and content is king”, says Sadan. “But that’s changing. Yes, they’re saying content is still extremely important, but user experience is just as important. It’s not sufficient to have all the right content — if people come to your site and the content is there but it’s not readable, that’s not good”.

However, it’s not just small companies that will be affected by mobile-geddno, as last week a marketing company called Somo released a study that found that brands like American Apparel, The Daily Mail and Ryanair, will also be penalised in the search results unless they update their websites before Tuesday.

You can follow the latest updates about mobile-geddon on Twitter here.

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