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Google’s April 21st Mobilegeddon

Dave Linabury

By Dave Linabury | January 2016

Google’s April 21st Mobilegeddon

Overblown hype or cause for alarm?

If you’ve read any tech press lately, you were likely inundated with headlines about Mobilegeddon that occurred on April 21st. These headlines read like the overblown Y2K prophecies did back in 1999.

If you read any of these posts, you probably encountered dire headlines about your site disappearing from Google if you weren’t ready for the April 21st mobile update. But the sites are still there. What’s the real story here?

First off, the tech press, like any other industry press, loves to use fear to get more views. So any chance they get to scare us is good for their readership numbers.

Secondly, many of these writers are in the SEO or mobile business, and writing an article that makes the writer look like a savior is good for their own side business. Nothing wrong with that, but it would be nice if they took a less dramatic headline approach. But I digress.

OK, now that we’re done bashing the press, let’s talk about what Google did and what the fallout has been. And I promise to refer to this as the “April 21st Update” and not use the M-word.

What Was Affected by the April 21st Update

Mobile Requirements: As Google revealed, for a site to be considered mobile-friendly, it needs to meet or exceed the following criteria:

  1. The text must be readable without having to zoom in on it.
  2. It should be easy-to-click targets (buttons, navigation, etc.)
  3. Targets should have a decent amount of space between them
  4. The page should avoid unplayable content
  5. The page does not employ horizontal scrolling
  6. In other words, the site simply needs to be easily usable from a mobile device.
  7. Tablet sites and desktop sites will not be affected. The desktop is probably no shock to anyone, but treating tablets differently than mobile is unusual. We’re curious to see if others follow suit. Many sites, apps, and tools treat tablets the same as mobile.
  8. It affects individual pages, not entire sites.
  9. It affects search results in all languages globally.
  10. It could affect 12% of mobile searches. At SMX Munich this year, Zineb Ait Bahajji (Google’s Webmaster Trends team) said the mobile-friendly algorithm will have a greater impact than the Panda (Affected: 12% of all searches) or Penguin (Affected: 3.1% of all searches) updates did. Search Engine Journal predicts it may affect more than 12% of mobile searches.
  11. Google News will not be affected by the mobile-friendly algorithm update, as reported in this Google Hangout.
  12. Only the “Ten Blue Links” will be affected. This means the first ten search results you see on a mobile search are the only results that will change.

According to TechCrunch, 44% of the Fortune 500 sites do not pass Google’s mobile-friendly test. An additional 4% of the Fortune 500 did not register one way or the other, implying the test may have had bugs. We noticed a few bugs with Google’s test as some of our sites that we had carefully coded as responsive failed one time but passed an hour later.

Finally, Google’s official announcement page has more notes, a link to its Mobile-Friendly Test as well as for instructions for other tests.

If you’ve experienced a loss in mobile traffic due to the April 21st update and are not sure what to do next, we’re here to help.

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Dave Linabury

Written by

Dave Linabury

Dave has over 20 years of experience in strategy, branding and user experience. He excels at ensuring our clients’ marketing aligns with their business goals.

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