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Mobilegeddon: Kiwi businesses to go up in flames?

Google added the mobile friendly label to its search results in November 2014. The company offered website owners a list of criteria to see if their site was eligible for the ‘mobile friendly’ label, including a Mobile-Friendly Test. 

“We see these labels as a first step in helping mobile users to have a better mobile web experience,” the company said in a blogpost at the time. Additionally, the company said, “We are also experimenting with using the mobile-friendly criteria as a ranking signal.”

Coming April 21, the search giant will make a major update to its mobile search algorithm that will change the order in which websites are ranked when users search from their phone or tablet. Websites that have met the ‘mobile-friendly’ criteria will be favoured over those that don’t. 

The search giant announced the impending changes back in February, “We will be expanding our use of mobile-friendliness as a ranking signal,” it said in a blogpost.

“This change will affect mobile searches in all languages worldwide and will have a significant impact in our search results. “

The announcement gave businesses just under two months to get their websites upgraded to avoid being impacted by the new algorithm. However, the update is expected to cause major issues for business across the globe, including New Zealand.

Impact PR Marketing consultant Fleur Revell says thousands of Kiwi businesses are not ready to meet Google’s upcoming ‘Mobilegeddon’.

Revell says half of New Zealand’s 50 top listed companies failed Google's mobile friendliness test. However, according to Revell, the biggest risk is for those businesses that rely heavily on marketing direct to consumers.

She says one in every four of the 50 best known Kiwi retail brands also failed to meet Google's new requirements.

"We applied the test to 50 of New Zealand’s largest blue chip companies and another 50 of the largest retailers and found many of them had not yet adapted their sites to fit Google’s requirements," Revell says.

“Google recognises there is a difference in the way we search on mobile devices - for instance, the screen is smaller than a PC’s and our fingers are unable to click links which are too close together,” she says.

“Dynamic businesses that can adapt rapidly to Google’s 500 algorithm changes each year will reap the rewards, while others will be relegated to virtual obscurity as their rankings slip off the coveted first page of Google.”

Revell says its estimated that the first five search engine results account for over two thirds of clicks through to businesses.

“Unfortunately most Kiwi SMEs are unable to dedicate the resources required to staying one step ahead.” Revell says those companies which are mobile friendly are set to benefit from their competitors lack of preparedness.

"Despite the light hearted terminology used by tech commentators globally, this algorithm update is expected to hit search engine rankings hard and has the potential to impact the bottom line for thousands of local businesses.”

Revell says the change will hit businesses that rely on mobile search traffic hardest and has particular concerns for local brick and mortar stores.

“Retail is a particularly competitive industry and in the case of a shopping mall or district, mobile search driven foot traffic has become a key driver of sales,” Revell says.

“Those sites which are mobile friendly can expect a significant boost in mobile search engine rankings, site traffic and potentially sales.” Revell says, “With over two thirds of adult New Zealanders owning a smartphone and around 50% of search engine queries originating from mobile phones, it’s not surprising Google has altered its algorithm to make mobile searches more user friendly." 

Revell says New Zealand businesses are not alone in being under prepared for the coming deadline with many high profile international brands also reportedly failing the test.