The Mobilegeddon Update: Seperating Myth from Reality

TOPICSMobile, Organic Search

“Guess what guys? It’s time to embrace the horror! Look, we’ve got front-row tickets to the end of the Earth!” — Rockhound, Armageddon (2002)


Photo Credit: Lenny Montana via Compfight cc

On April 21, 2015, Google rolled out a now-infamous algorithm designed to “[boost] the ranking of mobile-friendly pages on mobile search results.”[i] Despite the limited reach of the update, (the update would not affect desktop rankings at all, according to Google), its announcement sent site-owners and webmasters across the world scurrying to find shelter from the mobile-related implications.

It’s Day 153 since the dawn of Mobilegeddon, a new age of Google mobile rankings. What we see is hardly the scorched Earth predicted nearly four months ago. There was no falling sky, no judgement day, no Bruce Willis with his ragtag team of misfits boarding a space shuttle to blow up an asteroid with dated mining equipment.

While avoiding instant destruction by an asteroid the size of Texas is a scenario fit for a Hollywood script, the mobile future isn’t as clear-cut. Many non-mobile-friendly sites have reported a consistent decline in mobile traffic since the rollout earlier this year.[ii]

In order to quantify the current influence of the Mobilegeddon algorithm, I took a closer look at a sample of mobile-friendly and non-mobile-friendly sites in three different industries to identify any shifts in rankings.


Mobile-friendly sites do rank better than their non-friendly counterparts. But mobile-friendly sites in the sample only averaged a humble 9.12 spots higher on mobile rankings. No big deal, right? All that fuss over 9 spots on mobile rankings over a four month period? This is about what we should expect to see at this point.

But this is no time to celebrate surviving Mobilegeddon if you still have a non-mobile-friendly site. Mobile is influencing buyer behavior and purchase decisions more than ever and showing no signs of slowing down. Additionally, Google will likely continue to increase the importance of mobile-friendliness (or penalty for non-mobile-friendliness) as they continue to blaze forward in this direction. Finally, your site’s Quality Score not only influences organic results, but can also improve paid search results by improving the relevancy of your site.[iii]

Google claimed that the update “Affects only search rankings on mobile devices.” But the data portrays a contradiction to that statement. Mobile-friendly sites average 6.22 spots higher in desktop results than non-mobile-friendly sites. The discrepancy is unassuming, but could have major implications for your site.

In this sample, non-mobile-friendly sites averaged a position of 15.87 on the search engine results page, while mobile-friendly sites stood at a cool 9.65. A potential differentiator between a 1st or 2nd page ranking on desktop search is a staggering variance that seemingly impacts more than “mobile devices only.” While there are many more factors that could be impacting these rankings, the correlation should be concerning for those without mobile-friendly sites.

There are three mobile-friendly configurations to choose from, but Responsive Design is currently Google’s preferred configuration.[iv] This option serves the same HTML code and the same URL no matter the device used. The display will respond differently based on screen size of the device.

Unless your site currently utilizes app install interstitials, there is no reason to stock up on canned beans and bunker down for a Mobilegeddon 2.0 anytime soon. However, it’s safe to assume that Google will continue to steadily decrease rankings for non-mobile-friendly sites the longer it takes them to get on board. In other words, the train is leaving the station and the time to punch your ticket is now, lest you be left in the dust.