Google’s algorithm updates strike fear in the hearts of site owners. And their impact can be catastrophic. In the world of SEO, where slipping even one spot to drop out of the top 3 positions can mean up to 90% fewer visits to your site, losing visibility in search results has significant ramifications on traffic and revenue.
Given the dramatic impact of Google’s algorithm updates over the years, it’s not surprising that when Google announced their mobile-friendly label would become a ranking factor starting April 21, 2015, the online world sat up and took notice.
There was a flurry of speculation over the impact of the update, leading to the coining of the term “Mobilegeddon.” This time, however, there was one key difference. Unlike previous algorithm updates, Google outlined clear criteria for how websites could comply.
We decided to track whether the search results were “mobile-friendly” (according to Google) for over 1,000 important e-commerce keywords in a range of industries.
We found that 83% of the time, the top result is tagged as mobile-friendly by Google. 81% of the time the top 3 results are mobile-friendly. And when you consider all ten of the spots on Google’s first page, 77% of the search results are “mobile-friendly.”
To compete in SEO for top e-commerce keywords, mobile friendliness is table stakes.
How “mobile-friendly” are Google's search results today, several weeks after the update dubbed Mobilegeddon? We first selected 1,000 keywords across a series of industries in which our customers operate, including retail, healthcare, travel and hospitality, transportation, insurance and education.
We then tracked the URLs appearing in the first 10 positions of mobile search results for each of those keywords, from the end of April to the beginning of June. As there are 10 search results per page, these top ten positions represent the first page of mobile search results.
We also tracked whether or not each of the search results on the first page had the mobile-friendly tag. This gave us some interesting insights into the mobile-friendliness of the first page.
Let’s break it down by position.
On average, the percentage of mobile-friendly search results in the top keyword position was 83%. In general, lower keyword positions had a lower percentage of mobile-friendly keywords.
Keyword position number 5 for example, had 5% fewer mobile-friendly search results than did position number one. And compared to the number one keyword position, the number ten spot had 18% fewer mobile-friendly results.
For the top ten positions as a whole, the average percentage of mobile-friendly search results is 77%. These results appear to be stable over time. For the 6 weeks we tracked the data, the number of mobile-friendly results on the first page has hovered around the average of 7.7 out of 10 results.
Any way you slice it, the results have been stable. The search results in the top 3 keyword positions for example, were all around 81% mobile-friendly during the 6 weeks of our study.
The future of being “mobile-friendly” is here, it’s just not evenly distributed yet. There is significant variation in terms of embracing the mobile web and mobile SEO by industry.
When we separated the keywords by industry, we found that keywords in some industries had a much higher percentage of mobile-friendly webpages in their top 10 keyword positions. The first 10 search results for keywords related to Retail, for example, had 17% more mobile-friendly webpages than the first 10 results for keywords related to Education.
This industry-based variation in mobile-friendliness mirrors what we’ve seen in our previous research, in which we’ve found certain industries are further along the mobile maturity curve than others. And it is in line with the commonly accepted idea that certain industries are more competitive than others when it comes to SEO.
Mobilegeddon caused a significant stir in the online world when it was announced. But the nearly two-month warning Google provided, along with the tools to comply, was unprecedented. It’s therefore possible most top-ranking websites became mobile-friendly in time to retain their keyword positions by the time Google had finished rolling out their update, one week after April 21st.
One indication of this is the fact that there was no huge uproar in the SEO community in the week following the update. And our data, which picks up right after that, indicates that in subsequent weeks, there has also not been a significant impact on the percentage of mobile-friendly webpages listed on the first page of mobile search results as a result of Google’s algorithm update.
It seems Google managed, by simply announcing an update, to prompt websites to better meet the needs of mobile customers. 77% of top-ranking sites on the first page of mobile search results are now complying with Google’s current mobile-friendly algorithm requirements.
When it comes to top ranking e-commerce sites, our mobile-friendly future is already here. The question is, what is next?
by Anis Salvesen
Published on June 24, 2015
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