Google Mobile Friendly Update – Early Study Results

On February 26th, Google announced a mobile friendly update, a.k.a. Mobilegeddon, and the mobile frenzy began. “How will it affect my website?” is probably one of the questions in everyone’s mind these days. To answer this question, we’ve set up a research study to see how this update has impacted the mobile search results and we’re happy to share some initial results with you today.

The Setup

We started monitoring mobile search a few weeks ago with the help of the Google Algorithm Changes tool. Yesterday, on April 21st, Google publicly announced that the mobile update rollout has began. But as you can see in the data we collected so far, things haven’t been very calm in the mobile SERPs for the past week either.

mobile-algo-changes

This bar chart shows the ranking changes factor for each day. It’s color changes from green (fewer changes) to yellow (moderate changes) and red (major changes), depending on the number and severity of ranking changes.

The blue line shows the organic visibility of all the websites that we track in AWR Cloud. In the case above, when the organic visibility decreases, it means that, on average, the websites we track are experiencing lower rankings in Google mobile search results.

You can also see this report with your own website visibility in your AWR Cloud account.

Some of the changes you see in the chart above may have been caused by last minute changes by webmasters in order to make their websites mobile friendly. Some are probably tests ran by Google in preparation for the big algorithm change.

To get an idea of the scale of these changes, while on a normal day, around 120 thousand URLs move up and down in the SERPs, the last 6 days have all been red lines, moving about 250 thousand URLs every day. That’s on average about 40% of the 600 thousand URLs that we track daily.

What’s interesting is that the Top 20 results haven’t been affected that much. The major changes happened below the third page.

This could mean that established sites (that have been mobile friendly for a while) were already occupying the Top 20 results and were not affected that much by this algorithm update. Reversely, the sites that are not mobile friendly and are ranking between the third and fifth page are beeing replaced in the SERP by other sites that are mobile friendly.

The Study

While the Google Algorithm Changes tool proved to be a very helpful ally, we thought we should dig a bit deeper and precisely see how rankings changed for both mobile friendly and non-mobile friendly websites. So we started monitoring some websites from the same industry and checked them every day to see how their rankings evolve before and during this update.

There was no surprise to see that the mobile friendly websites kept moving up in the SERPs, while the non-friendly ones were dropping. Here’s the typical ranking evolution of the mobile-friendly and non-mobile friendly websites, during the update:

visi-m-f

Tweet this: On average, we have seen a 12% increase in ranking visibility for the mobile-friendly websites compared with their visibility on Google Mobile from a week ago.

As for the non-mobile friendly websites, their drop in visibility was slow but steady, proving somewhat that the update was gradual and not all keywords were affected at once:

vis-m-nf

These are just some the intial findings. We’ll continue to track and observe the changes for the next couple of weeks, to be sure we’re grasping the full picture, and we’ll keep you all up to date here on this blog and via Twitter.

By the way, if you’re not doing this already, you too can track your Google mobile rankings in AWR Cloud and compare your desktop rankings with the mobile ones.

Has your website been affected by these new changes in the Google Algorithm? Please leave a comment below.

Author: Philip Petrescu

Philip is the CEO and Co-Founder of Caphyon. You can find Philip on Twitter and Google+.

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9 thoughts on “Google Mobile Friendly Update – Early Study Results”

  1. Are the ranking fluctuations you’re seeing mainly the result of unbranded queries? Have you dug through the actual query data yet or just the overall positions of the 600 thousand URLs you’re tracking?

  2. Most of the sites I work with are mobile friendly anyway as are their competitors (typically lifestyle and brand ecommerce sites). But they have still experienced a small uplift in ranking and visibility, Coincidence?

    Interestingly of the websites that are not mobile friendly, they all operate in such small niches where the competition hasn’t gone mobile friendly/responsive yet either. So as a result there isn’t much other relevant content for Google to rank above them anyway. They will be made to be responsive eventually but at the moment other big web projects are forcing a delay and traffic is still steady.

    In my opinion and it seems like common sense, if your industry markets heavily to mobile users you will probably be mobile friendly already anyway. In which case the only uplift you may experience is over competitors that are not. Of those industries which typically do not see traffic or business from mobile devices then until it is a stronger ranking signal for all SERPs then its hardly news.

    If your customers are mobile consumers then you were loosing out on sales anyway, it might just be the cattle prod some fiscally strict Directors need in order to take notice of the moaning web developer.

    If your content was most relevant, then it is still relevant. And (barring seasonal demand) there are still as many users searching for your content as there was last week.

    1. Thanks for the great insights Gareth.

      It all boils down to how much traffic you get from mobile, which depends on what your business is.

      There are a two scenarios when your business relies on mobile search traffic:

      a) Your competitors are already mobile friendly

      This is the worst case scenario. You need to take action immediately or you will probably lose your mobile traffic very soon.

      b) Your competitors are not yet mobile friendly

      You can still get traffic if you’re site has relevant content. No need to take action now, but I suggest you create a mobile friendly site soon.

    1. Yes, we’ll be adding more countries soon, including Australia. Meanwhile, you can check out this great similar tool made by Dejan called Algoroo:

      https://algoroo.com/

      They are an SEO agency based in Australia and I presume their tool uses IP addresses from AU to get the rankings. Not sure if they track mobile data yet.

      1. Thanks Philip. http://algoroo.com/ is great and been a big fan for a while. Can’t wait to see AU added to AWR’s already impressive Google Algorithm Changes tool. One down-side of Algoroo is not being able to differentiate between AU Mobile versus AU Desktop, so I think that’d be pretty cool.

  3. Thanks Philip great to see your results. I started seeing some results, and SERP movement almost immediately. Today for my primary blog I saw the highest amount of mobile visitors in 6 years, yesterday came close.

    A lot of folks hating on SEO bloggers posting results “too early” but I do really appreciate this!

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