Winners and losers of Google's latest mobile friendly update: USA
Last week, Google’s John Mueller confirmed on Twitter that Google’s latest, stronger Mobile Friendly Update has been fully rolled out.
FYI The mobile changes mentioned here are now fully rolled out. https://t.co/fTB3ia6LJ2
— John ☆.o(≧▽≦)o.☆ (@JohnMu) May 12, 2016
This update is supposed to give an even more powerful boost to mobile-friendly pages.
When we try to figure out the winners and losers of this, it’s actually much easier to identify the losers. This has to do with Google using the same index for both desktop- and mobile-searches.
This means that a small positive change, caused by the website’s SEO or webmaster, can actually improve the visibility of both the desktop and mobile results.
This makes it quite difficult to figure out the if the ‘Mobile Friendly Update #2’ was the cause for the increase.
Nonetheless, I will show you some examples for websites where the update is the most likely cause for success.
As far as the losing websites are concerned, we are able to check for all the problems that Google said webmasters should look out for, when it comes to mobile.
We looked at the mobile visibility for 200 domains for the time frame between April 25th and May 16th, 2016. We only took those domains into account which had a visibility score of at least 3 points for the Mobile Visibility Index.
Here are the most interesting cases:
Instructables.com crashed from 44.9 points to 12.2 points in the Mobile Visibility Index (a decrease of -70.56%)
This case is very interesting as we can use the new Google Mobile Friendly Tool to analyse their mobile version.
For many URLs there are up to five resources that are blocked to the Googlebot. Some of these blocked resources are from advertisement platforms, but just blocking the resources does not mean that Googlebot might not still see the following during their crawl…
When I visited the website from my iPhone, or using the Google Chrome browser, I was shown some annoying advertisements and there are also some interstitials.
As Googlebot will obviously ignore cookies, it is very likely that Googlebot gets to see these interstitials every time it visits the site. The crash may be caused by either problem.
It not only lost visibility in the USA but also in UK and ES (they also have content in Spanish that ranks on Google.es)
Moveflat.com went from a visibility score of 3.272 to 1.929 (a decrease of -41.05%)
This is a very simple case: moveflat.com is simply not showing their mobile website to mobile users, by default. The user must actively click on a link. This makes them a good example when we consider John Müller’s statement:
“The intent of the search query is still a very strong signal – so even if a page with high quality content is not mobile-friendly, it could still rank well if it has great, relevant content“
It seems that this website does not belong to the above category.
Hipmunk.com went from a visibility score of 13.593 to 9.770 (a decrease of -28.13%)
While the people at Hipmunk.com seem very likeable with their chipmunk mascot, they also have some technical problems.
If we run the site through Google’s Mobile Friendly Test, we notice that Google will analyse the desktop version of the page. The sad part is that, if I open the website with my smartphone, I am shown a mobile version of the page.
If you do not have an appropriate mobile version of your website, or if Google cannot find/access it, you will have problems trying to rank well for mobile searches.
In the next chart you can see the historic ranking data for the desktop and mobile results for hipmunk.com for the keywords “cheapest flights.”
The red line shows the desktop positions while the blue line shows mobile rankings.
We can see that in the desktop-search they have been ranking in the top 10 for this keyword for a long time, while for mobile they only managed to crack the top 10 results three times, which is actually a pretty good summary of what is happening with the mobile friendly Google update.
As I said before, it is easier to identify the losers than the winners. While the winners could be where they are because they benefited from Google’s latest mobile friendly update, they could also show an increase because of positive SEO changes.
Boardgamegeek.com managed to increase their visibility from 5.774 points to 10.024 (an increase of +73.60%)
This case is interesting as we see a decrease in desktop visibility while the mobile-visibility is on the rise. The amazing thing is that they actually do not have a mobile version at all!
This will likely come back to Jon Mueller’s statement from before that: “even if a page with high quality content is not mobile-friendly, it could still rank well if it has great, relevant content.”
This could definitely be the case for Boardgamegeek, a domain that is already 16 years old, has a massive community of users and a lot of relevant content for the more than 77.000 games they cover.
Brainpop.com went from a visibility Index score of 8.973 to 12.950 (an increase of +44.32%)
The target audience for this educational website are young adults, who – as we all know – live glued to their smartphones. In the above chart we can nicely see how they break their negative trend after the update went live.
This shows that the same URL (the mobile update works on a URL level) has a better ranking for mobile than desktop for the keyword “electric circuits.”
Reuters.com managed to increase its visibility score from 19.315 to 27.311 (an increase of +41.40%)
In many countries we see news portals sporting a higher desktop visibility, while here we see the mobile visibility come out on top.
If we look at the ranking history below, for the keyword “indian temple”, we see the desktop rankings in red and mobile in blue. In the past, neither ranked very high, but after the update, the mobile version jumped into the top 10.
It is very likely that the domain was then able to create positive user signals through their mobile results, which then also helped the desktop ranking. This very much makes sense once we consider that Google only has one index for mobile and desktop.