5 Lessons We Learned From Mobilegeddon


Jayson DeMers, Contributor

May 17, 2015

The mobile apocalypse, or so it was explained to us, is over. The April 21st Google update that so many heralded as the next big game-changer in the SEO world has now been up and running for more than two weeks, and the results have been less than apocalyptic.

Here’s a little background for anyone who hasn’t been following the trail of updates: back in February, Google announced that it was planning on releasing a new addition to its search algorithm on April 21st, and that the update would change how the search engine evaluated and organized mobile-friendly and non-mobile-friendly sites. The post was short and sweet, but clearly explained what Google’s motivations were in the move. The company wants to increase the visibility of mobile-friendly sites and decrease the visibility of non-mobile-friendly sites.

The torrent of speculative articles that followed was almost overwhelming, as many search marketers claimed the update would change everything about how we use search and how SEO plays a role in lead acquisition for businesses. The results were slightly less dramatic. After a few days of the slow rollout, a handful of major sites were penalized—but they weren’t blown off the face of the Earth. Instead, they dropped in the rankings while a few other sites correspondingly rose in the rankings. All in all, not much shifted, and Google’s announcement, made two months before the release, held true.

So what have we learned from this experience?

1. Seach Algorithm Updates Are Often Overblown. This is painfully obvious to anyone who read an article predicting the worst about the update. A handful of extreme opinions snowballed into a massive movement that ended up coining an apocalyptic term for a relatively innocuous update. The effects of the April 21st update were pretty straightforward even back in February, but that certainly didn’t stop the hype train. There was never any reason to fear as much as an apocalyptic term would signify—especially if your site was already optimized for mobile.

2. Google Wants the Best for Us. Google isn’t out to get us. Google just wants its users to have the best possible experience regardless of what browser/device they use to find our wesite. As such, we can succeed by giving our customers the greatest experience possible. That’s why it told us exactly what it was planning more than two months in advance. That’s why it explained exactly how to optimize for mobile (if you didn’t know), and gave us all the opportunity to test our sites and see whether or not they were up to Google’s standards. The truth is, Google told us everything up front and gave us all the resources we needed to prepare for this update. If anyone missed the boat and saw their rankings drop, that’s on them.

3. Mobile Is Extremely Important. Mobile optimization is extremely important to Google; otherwise it wouldn’t have bothered with such an update and two months of warning for webmasters. In fact, its importance is only going to increase from here. Google is already starting to index mobile apps much in the same way that it indexes existing websites, and as time goes on, I wouldn’t be surprised to see more major updates come through that optimize online experience for mobile users.

It’s important to remember this moving forward. Rather than making changes just to appease Google and stay one step ahead of the algorithm changes, it’s worth your effort to truly invest in mobile technology and get ahead of your competition while you still have the time to do so.

4. Ranking Is All About the Present. I haven’t read any articles that have directly stated that the consequences of mobilegeddon would be permanent, but the implications are there. Dozens of SEO writers, myself included, warned of the possible dangers of not optimizing your site for mobile before the release of the update, but some went overboard about the dangers, warning of a critical damage point that would take months—or years—to recover from.

This simply isn’t the case. When Google calculates rankings, it looks only at the present. It’s true that some historical points, such as the age of your domain, come into play, but in terms of where your site ranks, the functionality mistakes of yesteryear have no bearing on where you rank today. If you were hit by the mobilegeddon update because your site wasn’t fully optimized for mobile, you can get your rankings back—easily—simply by optimizing your site now. It really is that simple. Few penalties or ranking changes from Google updates are permanent, so remember—there’s always time to improve.

5. This Isn’t the End. This isn’t the first time a Google update has caused a lot of unnecessary drama in the SEO world, and I can tell you it certainly won’t be the last. Google will keep making regular updates for as long as it’s a major player in the search world, and those updates will vary in scale from the barely noticeable to the truly game-changing. In order to effectively prepare for these updates, we must temper our expectations and look at the facts realistically. If we don’t ground ourselves, we can become lost to rampant speculation. Instead, we have to focus on what we actually know, take the appropriate precautionary measures, and let the rest of the cards fall where they may. If you make a mistake, there is always time to take corrective action.

Mobilegeddon didn’t turn out the way most people predicted—except maybe the folks at Google who told us exactly what to expect and the people who believed them. While in many ways this is just another example of how the SEO industry has become overdramatic, it’s also an indication of what we can expect from Google in the future: more transparency, more mobile updates, and fewer radical game-changers.

This article was written by Jayson DeMers from Forbes and was legally licensed through the NewsCred publisher network.

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