This past spring, the web was abuzz as Google released the much-feared algorithm update that severely punished websites that were not optimized for mobile. Marketers were anxious. Fear mongering abounded. But now that “Mobilegeddon” is actually upon us, some are saying that the reports of doom and destruction have been greatly exaggerated.
Many marketers have asked the HubSpot team just how worried they should be, so we sifted through the post-apocalyptic dust to review the damage for ourselves.
The Mobilegeddon Impact
After an analysis of more than 15,000 of our customers’ websites, here’s the takeaway: Websites that aren’t mobile optimized had an average of 5% decline in organic traffic.
Starting on April 21, we saw a marked decline in organic traffic over a three-week period. In the same time-period as this analysis, websites that were not prepared for Mobilegeddon lost 4.7% of organic traffic while mobile-optimized sites lost only 0.5% of traffic (likely due to seasonal traffic changes).
A 5% drop in traffic may not be catastrophic, but it’s nothing to shrug off either. For businesses pouring significant time and money into optimizing their websites' search rankings and conversion rates, a 5% decrease means lost progress and hundreds of lost leads every month.
Let’s examine an example to show you how this might play out in real life. A non-mobile-optimized website was generating 10,000 visits in April when the algorithm was released. Then, in the five months since, traffic has steadily declined by almost 2,000 visits. If we assume an 8% conversion rate, this business lost nearly 150 leads over the same timeframe -- all because it didn't optimize its site for mobile.
If your organic search traffic has also slipped since Mobilegeddon, that likely means your rank in Google’s search results has fallen as well. If that’s the case, the clock is ticking to get your site back on track. The longer you take to optimize your site and reclaim your spot from search results competitors, the harder it will become.
Mobilegeddon may not have been the death knell some were predicting, but the writing’s on the wall: Sites that aren’t mobile-optimized will see a significant impact on traffic and their overall business.
How to Get Your Site Back on Track
If your web presence screams 2009, you should be thinking about a comprehensive strategy to modernize your site and bring it in line with consumer expectations. If you’re limited by the technology you have in place, it may even be time to move to a modern website platform that delivers a responsive experience.
If the time isn’t right yet for a fully optimized site, you can still start to turn back the clock on Mobilegeddon by doing the following three things.
1) Give Your Landing Pages a Tune-Up
Look at your landing pages and consider the technology being used to power those. Because Google’s new algorithm works on the page level, it’s worthwhile to ensure your top 15-20 landing pages are mobile-friendly so you can keep your lead generation efforts growing.
If you're using a platform that is not mobile-friendly by default, you can easily configure your mobile viewport on landing pages and have Google recognize these pages as mobile friendly. While a mobile viewport alone will not give your pages an optimal user experience, it does signal to Google and other search engines that your page is mobile-friendly (which will help you retain or regain search rankings).
Like it or not, pop-up windows (although less obtrusive ones than what we saw in the 90s) are making a comeback because they convert well.
However, for mobile visitors, they can often be more of a frustration than anything else. Mobile users are unlikely to convert on them and may simply bounce rather than trying to close a fiddly pop-up window. So think about hiding them for anyone not using a desktop.
3) In the Meantime, Create a Mobile-Friendly Homepage
We talked about ensuring that your top-performing landing pages are mobile-friendly, but it’s just as important to ensure your whole website displays in search results on mobile. There are multiple ways you could make your website mobile-friendly, including creating a subdomain (e.g. mobile.website.com), incorporating responsive design, or considering using a website platform that helps make your website mobile-friendly.
We recommend, at a minimum, that you set your mobile viewport. Like we mentioned above, this will help you pass Google’s mobile-friendly test and start displaying again in mobile search results.
That being said, a mobile viewport is not enough by itself. The viewport will scale the content based on the device (and how you have it configured). However, it does not necessarily rearrange the page or make content on the page dynamic.
If you would rather create a subdomain where you can place some of your most important information on a mobile-friendly page, you can redirect users to that address based on their device. If you'd like to do this, ensure you build the mobile version of your website first.
After doing so, you can redirect users in a few ways, but one of the easiest ways is based on the screen width of the visitor. If you simply add the following to the header of your website, it will redirect any visitors with screen width less than 800 pixels to the domain set. Be sure to replace this domain with your own mobile domain.
While this is not the best long-term experience, it can help solve the immediate requirement of having a mobile friendly website while you work on a responsive version.
The optimal experience for your visitors and your own performance is to implement responsive design. Responsive design makes your page adapt to the visitor and will display information that is sized and zoomed appropriately so it’s easy to read on whatever device he or she is using.
In addition, responsive design is Google’s recommended web design pattern, as the Googlebot (the spider that crawls your website and content) only needs to look at your website once to index it. This also makes your website experience faster because there are no redirects in place, and no duplicate assets on a separate subdomain. You can learn more about how to implement responsive design from Google on Responsive Web Design Basics.
Note: For customers hosting your website with HubSpot, you automatically get responsive design included with your COS Website. Your website should be mobile-friendly by default and look beautiful for visitors from any device.
So, while the doom and gloom may be a bit overstated, there’s certainly some carnage among us. It’s now a matter of how we rebuild (or build) for the better. The user demands a richer mobile experience -- it’s up to you to deliver.
Originally published Aug 17, 2015 8:00:00 AM, updated February 01 2017