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There has been a growing trend in the online world, ever-increasing in potency and impossible to ignore any longer, as Google enacted the “greatest change in search history” by drastically increasing the importance of mobile optimization as a ranking factor on April 21st, 2015.
This massive alteration in Google’s SEO algorithm is of critical importance for any brand or business looking to remain relevant in the digital marketplace, but this doomsday event occurred as a result of a larger paradigm shift, as opposed to causing it. Mobilegeddon may be disastrous for some high-ranking websites, but mobile-friendliness has been a critical component of internet use for years now and has long been expanding in influence. Organizations that fail to recognize this glaring trend will fall by the wayside, making way for those who would rather join the mobile revolution than be destroyed by it.
While the landscape of online advertising is a constantly shifting mosaic of trends and data, the mobile-friendliness movement has been a pretty obvious one. Since mobile development has been a dominant force majeure in the past few years, ensuring one’s website is optimized for mobile devices should have been at the top of any marketer’s to-do list. This has even been a simple thing to check, as Google’s “Mobile-Friendly Test” provided a simplistic barometer for advertisers to gauge their own level of Mobilegeddon-preparedness. Now that the change in SEO ranking has finally taken effect, some online entities have seen their stock fall dramatically, while others have a enjoyed a substantial boost to their visibility in both organic and paid search.
These alterations to Google’s algorithm coincide with some unprecedented events in the history of the internet and online media. In 2014, for the very first time, there are more mobile users than desktop users worldwide. Since the dawn of online marketing, even the advent of the internet itself, there has never been a larger global user base than those on desktop, but mobile has just recently taken the lead. This will not change for some time, as personal smartphones constantly improve the ergonomic functionality and attractive user experience through exponential advancement in technology. Mobile devices are smaller, more affordable, and offer a more powerful yet simplistic way to engage the online world. You see, Mobilegeddon is really not such a catastrophic event to the world of digital marketing. Google’s change is simply a reflection of consumer behavior and inclination as we seek to reach online users in the method they prefer.
Even in the United States, we’re seeing adults spend more time with mobile than desktop when online. In fact, we now see U.S. desktop internet search declining for the first time in its existence. We may have seen the mobile-friendly trend coming for a very long time, but only now are we seeing this form of online media reign supreme among users across the world. As television, radio, and desktop see declines in marketing relevancy each year, who are these users who have decided they would rather access content on their compact, portable smartphone instead of a larger, stronger, yet stationary device? It is of course – and you’ve probably already guessed it – Millennials.
The global youth entering adulthood are more educated, more tech-savvy, and much more engaged by handheld mobile devices than the generation that came before. There are now 79 million Millennials in the United States alone, with over $170 Billion in purchasing power, and they engage with media on their own terms. There’s a much greater emphasis on personal, individualized internet use than in years past as cross-platform capabilities allow millennials to connect with others online no matter what device or browser they may choose to utilize. It is of critical importance to recognize that Mobilegeddon didn’t happen because we have wonderfully powerful smartphones all of a sudden. It is the users who have changed, with the generational preference of mobile over desktop having changed online marketing forever.
So what does this all mean to you? How does this mobile-friendly paradigm shift and subsequent change in Google’s search algorithm affect the way you do business? For brands, designers, and marketers everywhere, this means that your site must be optimized for mobile use. Mobile-friendly user experience cannot be an afterthought; it must be a direct focus of your digital strategy. After Mobilegeddon, advertising is all about where content is most easily and readily accessible, as the most influential websites have become those where Millenials engage with media quickly and easily. For now, these kings of publishing are Google and Facebook, where content is at one’s fingertips (or thumbs, perhaps) because smartphone use is centered around these two online entities. There is such a limited time to reach mobile users, so content must be portable and swift. After Mobilegeddon, nothing may ever be the same for online advertisers, but it’s not the end of the world. It’s just another emerging pattern in the complex tapestry that is the history of online media.