Google made their much anticipated mobile-friendly update (nicknamed “Mobilegeddon”) last week, where a site’s search engine ranking now takes into account whether the site is mobile-friendly or not. The goal is to give mobile device users better search results since it is not much help for them to find a good site in Google but then not be able to view it. Keep in mind this change only applies to searches done on smartphones, not desktop computers and tablets.
Converting a large site to be mobile-friendly is not easy. For example, for Dumb.com, it took my graphics designer (I found him on oDesk.com) several days to do the new layout and it took my programmer a month to integrate everything because Dumb.com has thousands of different sections and subpages. We only finished the day before the Google deadline. I also have a bunch of sites, such as Adoptme.com, that are Flash based, so there is nothing I can easily do to convert them to mobile.
Because almost all my sites were created before mobile browsing even existed, and I only changed a handful of them to be mobile-friendly (“responsive”), I am in a good position to see the effects of Google’s new rankings. Surprisingly, from what I can tell, nothing much has changed. My non-mobile friendly sites have not seen any decrease in traffic. And, my mobile-friendly sites have not seen any increase in traffic. It may take a few weeks or even months for Google to fully roll out their changes, so maybe my analysis is premature. I will post an update on my blog if anything changes.
Even more interesting to me is what effect totally redesigning Dumb.com will have. Dumb.com is a popular site, getting 20,000 visitors a day, and I worried making any changes to it might jeopardize my search engine rankings, or might result in less user engagement (how long the user stays on the site and how many pages they look at) or lower ad revenue. Basically, I did not want to mess with something that was already working well (I had not changed the design since 2008). But, I also knew that 53% of Dumb.com users visit the site from a smartphone, so it was important to make all these modifications, and not just because Google wanted me to.
Surprisingly, so far the changes have had no effect at all on Dumb.com traffic or user engagement or ad revenue. Everything is exactly the same as before. The only issue that has come up so far is that when you have a responsive (mobile optimized) site, AdSense recommends using their responsive ad code. This means that instead of having a different ad code for each advertising spot on your page, anywhere you want to put an ad you just use the one responsive ad code that AdSense gives you for the site, and it automatically adjusts to the size of the available ad space. In theory, this sounds great, but it did not work out very well for me. The way Dumb.com is formatted, AdSense determined there was not enough space to show the 160×600 ad on mobile devices, even though it previously looked fine on my iPhone. Because of that, the ad impressions for that spot went down by 50%, so my ad income went way down. I have since switched the 160×600 ad back to the old version but kept the other ad spots using the new responsive code, and everything is fine again.
Something else to consider is that although mobile phones account for over half of my traffic, 86% of my AdSense earnings come from Desktops and Tablets, and only 14% from mobile phones. This is mainly because my mobile ads have a much lower clickthrough rate (the ads get fewer clicks). I think mobile phone users tend to be in more of a rush, or are maybe less likely to buy the stuff that is being advertised.
Four or Five years ago I thought websites might be on the decline since everybody was in a frenzy over Facebook apps, social media pages, and mobile apps. But, it seems like none of that has done much to replace actual web pages. People just surf the web on their mobile device or tablet now instead of their PC. Since I am in the business of creating and running websites, that suits me just fine.Share: