Unless you’ve been living under a rock, you are more than aware that Google is pushing out an algorithm update on April 21st, 2015. This new update will be global and focus on ‘mobile-friendliness as a ranking signal.’
Starting April 21, we will be expanding our use of mobile-friendliness as a ranking signal. This change will affect mobile searches in all languages worldwide and will have a significant impact in our search results.
It’s uncommon for Google to give advanced notice of an algorithm update so I think it’s imperative that we heed their not-so-subtle warning when they say that it will have a ‘significant impact’ in their search results.
So what does this mean for design and user experience? If everyone is going to be rushing to make their sites responsive by this deadline, are we to assume that everyone will be doing it correctly?
In a recent tweet by John Doherty, he brings up this very point.
3/ Now we are going to see a lot of really bad mobile sites implemented for “SEO purposes” that will kill conversions.
— John Doherty (@dohertyjf) March 11, 2015
This raises a great question: will developers keep the user in mind or are we going to see sites do the bear minimum just to pass Google’s mobile-friendly test?
Google has stated that we should keep the user in mind when designing our sites. This is especially true when it comes to mobile. If a user has a bad experience on our site, do we run the risk of them not returning? If John’s tweet is correct, this could be extremely detrimental for many sites.
There are numerous studies that suggest a user will not return to a website if they have had a bad mobile experience and will likely go to their competitor to complete a purchase.
This shouldn’t come as a surprise as the warning signs have been there for a while. Google has been saying ‘mobile first’ for a few years so an algorithm update to support that is the next logical step.
But let me play devil’s advocate for a minute. What if a business owner doesn’t have the budget to make their site responsive, is not interested in a mobile site or just plain lazy. How much traffic are they expected to lose from this new update?
In a recent post by Bryson Meunier on Search Engine Land, he tackles that very question. Using Moz.com as an example, Bryson estimates that Moz could lose up to 41% smartphone traffic and 3% total traffic. If that isn’t an eye-opener then I don’t know what is.
This update will probably have more of an impact than Panda or Penguin so I will monitor this closely and follow will up with you all after April 21st.