An update to Google's search algorithm that favors mobile-friendly websites may affect traffic for many companies, Sam Sanders reports for NPR's "The Industry."
How 'Mobileggdon' will assess websites
The change, dubbed "Mobileggdon" and implemented on Tuesday, will only affect results on smartphones. But nearly half of all search traffic now comes from mobile devices, according to research from Internet marketing firm Portent.
The mobile factor is still just one part of a larger calculation, stresses Google spokesperson Krisztina Radosavljevic-Szilagyi. The searcher's intent remains a more influential variable, she explains. If one page's content matches a query well, the algorithm will rank it higher than lower-quality pages that are mobile friendly.
"We want to make sure [users] can find content that's not only relevant and timely, but also easy to read and interact with on smaller mobile screens," Radosavljevic-Szilagyi says.
Google has provided resources to help make pages mobile-friendly and created a tool to test how mobile-friendly they actually are. And because the algorithm works in "real time," any website updates will be reflected quickly in search rankings.
Are websites ready?
Despite the prevalence of smartphones and tablets, many major websites are still not mobile-ready.
Researchers at Portent found 10,000 of the Internet's top 25,000 websites—as determined by analytics websites Majestic Million and Alexa—failed Google's mobile-readiness test, most due to small text size and spacing of links.
Designing a better experience for prospective and current students
This may be because those organizations have mobile apps and leaders determined a mobile website was not important, see only a small portion of their traffic coming from mobile, or do not have enough internal inertia to update it, says Portent CEO Ian Lurie. The financial cost also plays a role, he says. It is about 25% more expensive to build a mobile-friendly website compared with one that is just desktop-ready.
"Google is very scary at this point as a controller of Web content," says Lurie, and while he agrees its current definition of mobile-friendly is reasonable, he says, "they could change that" (Sanders, "The Industry," NPR, 4/21).
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