- Posted by Nigel Edelshain
- On September 28, 2015
You’ve probably read about “Mobilegeddon” by now. This was Google’s search algorithm update that occurred on April 21 this year.
In advance of this update many people thought search results might change overnight with websites that were not optimized for mobile devices disappearing from page one results en masse. This did not happen.
But to heave a big sigh of relief if your website is not mobile-friendly is likely to be a mistake. The reality of the situation based on the data now available suggests that April 21 might be more of the beginning of a test by Google rather than the end.
Once Google has had time to analyze the data, there’s a good chance they may actually accelerate the changes in their search algorithm, giving mobile-friendly sites a big advantage. They may do this with much less fanfare than occurred on April 21.
We love our phones!
Google is here to serve us when we are looking for something on the Web and we are looking from our phones more than ever before. One reason for this is that there’s been an incredible growth in the number of people with phones in the world and also the percentage of those phones that are smartphones. Compare the phone user numbers below from 1995 to those for 2014.
Not only are there a huge number of people using smartphones but the way we use them is integral to our lifestyle (“obsessive” would be a less flaterring word, with 80% of millenials saying the first thing they do in the morning is “reach for their smartphone”–not talk to their significant other!).
Given all this, it’s hardly surprising that Google just reported that searches on mobile devices now outumber searches on the desktops/laptops for the first time ever in 10 countries, including the US.
Early data on Mobilegeddon
There was no “falling off a cliff” on April 22, 2015. Sites that were not mobile-friendly still seemed to rank. However as time has gone by and more data has been collected and analyzed a trend is emerging: Mobile-friendly sites are starting to creep up the rankings.
The chart above from Moovweb shows what is happening on the first page of Google results for a variety of searches. The top positions on page one have more mobile-friendly sites than the lower positions.
Stone Temple Consulting looked at over 15,000 search queries on April 18 and a month after on May 18. They looked at how mobile-friendly and non mobile-friendly sites fared on the first page of Google results. The chart below shows their results.
As you can see from the chart non-mobile friendly sites lost way more positions than they gained. Mobile-friendly sites generally gained more than they lost. (The authors note that this Google algorithm update also included other quality factors not associated with mobile so not all mobile-friendly sites gained.)
In their Q2 2015 digital advertising report Adobe identifies an up to 10% traffic decline in non mobile-friendly websites. Adobe notes that some non mobile-friendly sites have bid up the price of certain PPC ads to help them make up for traffic lost from organic search declines.
Mobile is important for hospital marketing
So is this Google update important to hospital marketers?
Most prospective patients use search (77%) to research their symptoms and to find which doctor and health system to visit. The chart below is from Google’s study, The Digital Journey to Wellness.
Prospective patients use their mobile devices for this research not just their desktops/laptops. When using their mobile device they are more likely to be involved in critical later stage research activities like booking an appointment with a physician.
“Mobile first” likely to become the norm
When you mull over the data it seems very likely that “Mobilegeddon” was only a first step. The incredible adoption of mobile phones suggests there is no going back.
If you are Google and your job is to serve the searcher as best you can (or lose them to Bing, etc.) then you need to make the search experience on a mobile device the best it can be. If this means pushing webmasters to make their website mobile-friendly, so when a searcher clicks a link in the Google results the site they find works well on their device, then you are going to do that.
It’s very likely that many more changes are to come from Google (and others) that will mean health system websites need to be designed in a “mobile first” way. When building new websites hospital marketers should start designing web pages primarily for mobile devices (short forms with only a few fields anyone?). This is a significant mindset shift in practice.
If you’d like to know whether your website or any of your web pages is considered “mobile-friendly” by Google, go to Google’s Mobile-Friendly Test Tool and plug in your URL.
If you’d like to know about the other key trends in hospital marketing in 2016, grab a copy of our ebook, 13 imperatives for hospital marketers from 13 top experts. A lot is changing.