Mobile Friendly Update Slow Boils in UK as US Finally Begin to See Effect

by Alex Graves
Bronco - Digital Marketing Agency

When Google announced that they were setting a date on which they were going to be releasing a mobile friendly update into the search engine seen by mobile device users, there was a wealth of panic stricken website and business owners that battled again time to ensure that their site was ready for the new era of mobile organics, one that promoted better user experience and a reduction in organic performance of sites that failed to give mobile users a friendly, easy to use experience.

Nicknamed as ‘Mobilegeddon' in both the online community and press coverage of the news, speculation was high that the update would be a crushing blow to websites that failed to comply with the mobile friendly requirements that Google outline openly but as the deadline approached, many began to wonder whether they would be too late…

Originally announced for release 21st April 2015, the ‘Mobile Friendly update'  was built into a whirlwind of ‘what', ‘ifs' and ‘maybes' after Google revealed that the change would be algorithmically rolled out within the search engine organics seen by mobile users, claiming that it would "reward sites" that offered a good, solid mobile experience in a mobile display enabled environment.

Naturally every online website owner wants to be able to feel the benefit of being rewarded by the biggest search engine in the world, meaning that development teams across the globe were thrown into deadlines that meant that mobile friendly versions of websites, or in some cases; completely new mobile sites, were released before the dreaded release date passed.

Having seen the effect that Google Penguin had on businesses of all sizes, I can say that we were ready to watch with particular interest the impact that would come from the release of the new update, especially as Zineb Ait Bahajji of Google Webmaster Trends fame took to the stage at SMX Munich earlier this year to point out that this new update was going to have a greater impact on organic rankings than Google Panda (12%) and Penguin (3.1%) have ever had, citing a projected ‘more than 12% of mobile search queries' being potentially affected.

That's Huge! What Did You See After The Update Release Date?

As the 21st April 2015 rolled around, the press coverage of the update continued to increase in velocity, with reports that the update was going to impact on the Google search results (without mentioning that this update is only going to be seen on mobile devices), fear tactics of referring to the update as ‘Mobilegeddon' and pretty much everything inbetween, leaving the online community sat at their desks in wonder of what they were about to witness…

Just before the mobile friendly update was released 21st April 2015 (Google's pre-launch announced date), there were a couple of interesting information posts that shed a little more light on the mobile friendly update and what we could expect from it (as mentioned here), helping to derail some of the more outrageous claims that seemed to be creeping in.

So informed about the fact that Google could be running a secondary index, that the update was to be page specific and that it would be only mobile devices (not tablets as these are shown desktop results) that would see the changes, we sat in wait as we waited to see the impact on a variety of sites, including test sites, clients and generally large names in different verticals that we don't currently work in directly.

Google's Gary Illyes announced via Twitter that the update had begun to roll out, tweeting out "Houston, we have liftoff! Rolling out the mobile-friendly update #april21".

With the announcement confirming that Google had begun to roll out their update, the online community was left hitting the refresh button on their rank trackers to see whether the ‘Mobilegeddon' effect was about to send mobile search into a wealth of darkness, however we were left with very little to draw from the first day of release, meaning that we could confirm that it wasn't a simply index switch over.

As more time passed we began to see some interesting insights within the rankings that we were watching, with one non-mobile friendly website actually seeing an increase in mobile search rankings rather than witnessing the steep drop that we would have expected to see from a website that failed to comply once in any of over 100 pages of indexed content.

With rankings set up to check daily progress in both Google desktop and Google mobile rankings, we watched in unsubdued anticipation to see whether the clients that we had delivered responsive, mobile friendly designs were given the ‘reward' that Google claimed was coming their way… As yet very little to comment on that as rankings seem to be more fluctuation based than algorithmic with ups and downs happening what seems like hourly.

As we began to feel that the ‘Mobilegeddon' update was little more than a bad joke to push website owners to improve their user experience, data started to be shared within the online community over the past few days with proof that the Google mobile friendly update was beginning to take more of an effect within the (US) ranking space, while the UK search engine seemed to fail to highlight those trends.


With UK businesses seeing only a slight affect as of yet in most cases, were subjected to a little more of an impact by the update as far as the data shows, showing a 38.01% reduction in online mobile visibility across various keyword terms in SearchMetrics however a look at what could be behind that seems to show that they have had less than a smooth transmission over to a better mobile experience.


With and intended to focus on mobile users trying to access the site but the site still showing us that they have blocked the site from the search engine crawlers, while the other pushes mobile device users to a non-mobile friendly page?


With only small amounts of information about such instances within Google UK's mobile results at this moment in time, conversation is quickly being dominated by Google US rankings that have seen the likes of Reddit, NBC Sports, Bloomberg Business and Vogue feel the negative impact that the update promised.

Danny Sullivan wrote a post on SEL pointing out that with Reddit being the hardest hit, it didn't take too much to figure out why they could have been sent crashing from the visibility tables, explaining that the Reddit homepage failed to return as being ‘Mobile Friendly' when placed through the Google Mobile Friendly checker tool, meaning that it was highly likely that the internal pages would also follow suit.

So is the Mobile Friendly Update now done?

Google have yet to reveal how often this update will be altered in coming months, however one thing is for certain, it's not finished yet and it seems that the US results are the first to have been targeted so if you have already breathed a shy of relief, you might want to hold back the party just yet, especially in the UK.

The fact that Google US is showing the negative impact on a wider scale than the UK mobile search rankings are at the moment is nothing out of the ordinary, this is something that we have seen time and time again from the search giants as they push out changes to the way in which their organic search works.

With the potential of this being a secondary, mobile only index still possible, it comes as no surprise that the update would take a longer time frame to roll out and reveal the true impact, just as we saw with Google Panda and Google Penguin within their debut months.

Am I Too Late to Get Mobile Friendly?

Great news! You’re not too late… As this is a frequently updating check.

Google revealed that this was going to be a big update and one that would have a bigger impact than the updates that have previously been pushed out of their deep, dark development labs and those were seen to have completely changed the way in which the online industry works, so there is little surprise that there are rumbles that this update could still carry a heavy blow for those that fail to be mobile friendly.

With that in mind, we feel that we should point out that Google have already expressed that the update would be looking at pages of websites on an individual basis, meaning that only pages that fail to prove themselves to be mobile friendly would be impacted by the roll out.

As with many singular level algorithm changes, Google expressed that you can rectify the issue and they would see the change of status with the next crawl of that specific page, however they also pointed out that you could speed up the finding of that change by using the ‘Fetch and Render' feature within the Google Webmaster Tools platform.

Mobile Friendly Update Impact on UK Results

As we like to ensure that we are able to push out findings that have some meaning to them, I think that rather than create a small taste of the ranking information that we have right now, I will publish another post later this week as more information becomes available and allows us to analyse the ranking movements within mobile search, so check back soon!

Bronco - Digital Marketing Agency
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