Google’s Mobilegeddon

By | April 28, 2015

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.

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5 thoughts on “Google’s Mobilegeddon

  1. Michael

    I know why people don’t click the mobile ads yet! There really not that interesting like the desktop ads. Most of the time Google is always spitting out just text ads for mobile. I am sure as more people start advertising on cell phones they will get better or google will change them up a little, they have already made them bigger from 50px to 100px tall.

    Your Dumb isn’t completely mobilized yet. I just opened it up on my iphone and clicked on brain teasers and its not centered in the middle of the screen and its cut in half!

    1. Eric Borgos Post author

      It passes the Google Mobile friendly test at https://www.google.com/webmasters/tools/mobile-friendly/?url=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.dumb.com%2Fbrainteasers%2FBrideGroom.html
      which is all I really care about right now (for SEO purposes). But, yes, there is still a lot more work to do on the site. I actually just started having somebody work on fixing a bunch of little things like that today on Dumb.com. All responsive/mobile related issues. The brain teasers section used to use Flash, but I converted in to HTML5 using Google Swiffy, but converting Flash to html5 is complicated and does not always work too well, so in this case it may be throwing off the sizing on the page. I checked on my iPhone now and see exactly what you mean.

      1. Michael

        I was just letting you know 🙂 it may be mobile friendly but it’s not human friendly yet lol! I bet that would be hard making a flash program into HTML 5 stuff, I am sure that would take a ton of work.

        What about a secure site for dumb? I read that Google wants every website secure now with the https:, have you read that? I secured up my bako site, it was pretty easy to do.

        1. Eric Borgos Post author

          Yes, I have read about Google’s push for webmasters to switch to https. I have a secure server already for the shopping cart part of my CheapFlowers.com site, but not the main part of it. I will switch all my big sites to https once Google makes more of a bid deal about it like they did with mobile. For now it is not that much of a factor.

  2. John Colascione

    I have not noticed much at all from either the https protocal being used or this new mobile friendly adjustment in search; most traffic seems to be the same as if nothing at all has been updated. I’ve done both mobile versions and responsive on several sites as well as the https protocal and I have not noticed any clear benefit to either one of them. Atleast, not yet. Nothing…

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