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Why Google’s Second Mobile Update Matters – Here’s Why #78

Google has been shouting at you for a while now to get mobile friendly. Are you paying attention? In this episode of Here’s Why, we’ll explain why the second mobile ranking update from Google is a loud and clear message that you should.

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Mark: So Eric, in May of 2016, Google released its second major update to its mobile-friendly ranking algorithm. Just as with the first release in 2015, we ran an extensive before and after measurement to evaluate the effect of each update on mobile search rankings. Now we could dive right into those results, but I think it might be more useful to set them in historical context. So why don’t we walk our viewers through those updates in time order?

BONUS: Get a Google mobile update history timeline at the end of this post!  

Eric: Sure, great idea, Mark. For several years now, Google has been talking about the importance of having a mobile-friendly site, a site that is easy to read and use on a mobile device. But things got serious when in February of 2015, Google announced that there would be what they called a mobile-friendly update that would actually boost mobile-friendly sites and mobile results, and demote mobile unfriendly sites.
Mark: Now in anticipation of that update, we pulled mobile ranking data for the top 10 results for over 15,000 queries. Then on April 21st, Google began rolling out that update.
Eric: Right, and we allowed some time for Google to recrawl affected sites. Then on May 18th, we rescanned rankings for those same 15,000+ queries. Our results show that this first update had a significant effect, with nearly 47% of the non-mobile friendly pages in our sample dropping in ranking, while about 30% of the mobile-friendly pages rose.
Mark: Now in 2016, Google once again announced there would be a further update to the mobile ranking algorithm.
Eric: And so once again, we took a snapshot of the mobile results before the update, this time expanding to over 18,000 queries. A couple of weeks later, we heard from Google that the new update had begun to roll out.
Mark: And as we did the previous time, we waited for Google to recrawl the sites, and then took another snapshot of the results. However, this time as you can see here, the results were not nearly as dramatic.
Movement of Top 10 Results After the Mobile Update
In fact, they were pretty close to statistically insignificant. So let’s stop here for a moment, Eric, because I’m sure many of our viewers are asking, “Why did the second mobile update seem to have much less effect than the first?” Now, especially since Google said this second update would actually have more effect than the first.
Eric: Well, the most likely reason is that there were a lot of other ranking updates and changes to ranking algorithms that happened during the same time period. If that’s the case, some of those updates may have carried more weight than the mobile update did.
Mark: So is this update still important then?
Eric: I think so. The very existence of this second update, and the fact that Google announced it and the previous one ahead of time show that mobile really matters to Google. We know that Google constantly tests many hundreds of potential updates, and they quickly retire those that they find ineffective. So the fact that they’ve publically announced two updates, and have said that there will be more in the future, is really significant.
Mark: And think for a moment about the fact that Google has been announcing these updates publically. They don’t do that for a lot of their updates. So why here? It has to be because they want to motivate webmasters to get more mobile friendly.
Eric: And of course, we should add that apart from any SEO concerns, in a world that is increasingly mobile, being mobile friendly makes a lot of sense in serving your site’s users and keeping them happy.
Mark: Absolutely. And if you want to learn more about this topic, Eric wrote a lot more about it in his article on the impact of Google’s second mobile update.

Google Mobile Update History Infographic


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Thoughts on “Why Google’s Second Mobile Update Matters – Here’s Why #78”

  1. One of our site’s ranking went down one slot from first to second so we got worried and made it completely mobile responsive, faster with optimized images, javascript, css, and everything, totally revamped the html and css to make it fully validated…everything. The mobile responsive part was a great thing to do for o-speur users but we have not seen our ranking go back to first. Your post makes me realize it was still money and time well-spent because Google wants it but more importantly, being mobile responsive is being more considerate of our users.

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Mark Traphagen

Mark Traphagen was our Content Strategy Director for Perficient Digital until February of 2019. He has been named one of the most influential content and social media authors in numerous industry listings.

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