What is ‘Mobilegeddon?’
If you own a business that has a website, you probably have already heard the term ‘Mobilegeddon.’ But, what is it, exactly? Firstly, search engines today use a certain algorithm to help rank websites in a certain order. Having a frequently updated embedded blog is among these elements. While having a mobile version of your website was certainly a better way to reach 50% more of your target audience, not having a mobile website didn’t prevent you from ranking on the first page. However, in March, Google announced that as of April 1st, 2015, websites without a mobile version would take a hit in their ranking. Some websites saw their rank sink from a well-established listing on the first page to being buried in the deep pits of internet space on the 8th page, overnight. Many of you may be wondering: how did we get here?
Websites of Yesteryear
When the internet was in its first stages of becoming the global phenomenon that it is today, businesses were faced with the choice of establishing a presence online, or continuing to rely on yellow pages, radio advertising, and television commercials. Not many years later, businesses found an online presence not only helpful in promoting their company, but necessary to stand out among other companies offering the same products or services. Today, search engines like Google, Yahoo, and Bing have established a strict set of guidelines, called algorithms, which help determine which sites should rank higher than others. This ranking now determines how successful a business can become.
The internet now offers a wealth of resources in finding the product or service that perfectly fits your needs. A simple search for ‘dish detergent’ will reveal pages upon pages of information on where to buy dish detergent, what detergent to buy, the ingredients in various detergents, and so on. Because the world wide web is so massive, search engines had to develop a way to fairly categorize websites in such a way that the most relevant results would appear first. Now building a website entails premium keyword optimization, advanced interactivity and design, and increasing the average length of visitor stay. These algorithm elements help search engines categorize what information is most important and most relevant to the searchers.
The upside is that simply following these algorithms help you reach your target audience, who is also trying to reach you. The downside is that sorting through and implementing each element isn’t a task taken lightly. That is why you find so many website design companies will charge in the tens of thousands of dollars for properly optimized websites.
Why is This Happening?
To put it simply, Google is just adapting to the times. The cellphone market is now oversaturated. That means every person has at least one cellphone, and some even have two – a second line provided by their employer for specifically work-related communications. In the past couple of years, there has been a new technological advancement that is also changing the way consumers browse the web – and that was the introduction of tablets. Now the average first-world home has at least one tablet, while some homes even have at least one tablet per household member. The current average percentage of mobile viewers of any given website is 35. You read that right, over a third of all consumers are viewing your site from a mobile device, and that number is constantly rising. Google saw a need to bring a better experience to their customers, and ultimately to your customers. Google needed a way to point the third of all consumers searching from a mobile phone or tablet, in the right direction, to a site that has mobile optimization. The only feasible way to do this, is to adjust the algorithm so that sites with dedicated mobile versions earn priority. Thus, ‘Mobilegeddon’ was born.
What are the Cons?
The biggest con we are looking at when discussing sites getting ‘dinged’ (basically, losing value on the ranking scale) for not having a dedicated mobile site, is the timing. Google did not give businesses a clear heads up to this very big change. The average time it takes to rebuild a website is six weeks. Website designers became instantly booked when this information went public, leaving little time to launch several new websites with full functionality by April 1st. Additionally, some businesses refused to believe their number one or number two ranking could take such a hit. Unfortunately, between missing mobile site launch dates, simply not knowing, and a complete lackadaisical approach to this information, many sites took a huge hit to their visibility, being thrust back into the dark ages of a suitable online presence. Businesses, possibly much like your own, took a huge hit from this ding, and simply launching a new mobile-ready website isn’t going to restore its glory overnight, which is a con in of itself.
Another big con is the one that hits the pocketbooks. Launching a new mobile-ready site, or a dedicated mobile site is simply expensive. Especially with the late announcement, many companies that wanted to be ready had to pay top dollar to have their launch expedited.
There Has to be SOME Pros, Right?
There are, indeed. As previously mentioned, over a third of all of your target audience is looking for you from a mobile device, be it cellphone or tablet. So by having a mobile-ready website, you are going to be able to reach 50% more of your target audience that you weren’t previously able to otherwise. If you are familiar with your online traffic conversion rate, you know that this means bigger profit margins and happier customers that are willing to buy more from you – more often. Even a large investment into a mobile website will increase your ROI in the long-haul.
Additionally, it gives your business the persona of being modern and advanced, which makes the spend-happy Generation Y consumers more likely to buy from you. These consumers are more likely to recommend their friends and family to you if they’ve had an optimal online experience with your company.
Finally, if your competitors haven’t taken the plunge yet, you can be the thought-leader in your industry. Your business will slowly, but surely, rise to top of the heap, provided you are following all of the other webmaster guidelines as well. It’s good to be King.
So, How Do I Fix It?
There are two ways to ensure your site will beat “Mobilegeddon.” Both of which, require taking that plunge in having a mobile site. Your first option is to build a separately coded online website. While this is a viable option that will meet the new standards, it may not be the most effective from a consumer experience stand point. Psychologically, consumers prefer a seamless buying experience. So if they visit your desktop browser version and get a satisfactory experience, but then visit your mobile site only to find that the design and layout is completely different, they will often question if they are even on the right site. You could instantly see a decline in conversions and follow through.
To overcome this potential disaster, I introduce option two – Responsive design. This is typically the more expensive route, as a responsive design will often require a complete website overhaul. But if you are good with templates, there are thousands of low-cost options that give you the drag-and-drop experience while still meeting the guidelines of the webmaster. If you haven’t heard the term ‘responsive’ before, allow me to explain. A responsive website gives the consumer a completely seamless experience between devices. Your beautiful desktop browser version simply shrinks and menus collapse to accommodate screen size! So, whether you are on a tablet or cellphone, the website will still be just as accessible and functional as the desktop version. Crisis averted.
The Beginning of a New Era
Truth be told, mobile access to websites isn’t a new thing. It has been going on for over 7 years, when the first pda’s and smartphones starting hitting the mass market. My best advice to you is to not try to fight the current, technology is the future. The future is now.