Follow-up BrightEdge study finds mobile algo impact on SERPs settled
As the search world is very aware, on April 21 Google changed the algorithm that determines the ranking positions on the search engine results page. Google gave about 2 months warning which is unprecedented in lead time and clarity. The notice gave BrightEdge data scientists time to build a benchmark and set up a number of experiments.
Before the change rolled out, the industry was agog with the possibility of non-mobile friendly websites being wiped out of the SERPs. What happened instead was more tempered. BrightEdge published their initial results on April 28 on the BrightEdge Blog:
How did this change impact the makeup of the first 3 pages of SERPs?
Our researchers determined that as of April 27 there was a 21% decrease in the number of non-mobile-friendly URLs on the first 3 pages of the SERPs compared to before the update. Versus the decrease seen on page 1 of 17.3%, a more pronounced impact was seen on the 2nd and 3rd SERP pages, which saw a 20.7% and 25.2% decrease, respectively, in non-mobile-friendly URLs. We hypothesize that because other ranking factors are weaker on the second and third pages of search results that the mobile-friendliness of a URL had a bigger impact on rank than it did on the first page.
BrightEdge repeated the research which found a 21% reduction in share of non-mobile-friendly SERPs to measure the movement in the second week.
So, did Google continue to ratchet up the weight and benefit given to mobile-friendly sites or taken from non-mobile-friendly sites? The answer is ‘No.’ The BrightEdge benchmark of 20,000+ URLs and over 750 generic (non-brand) keywords shows no meaningful change in the share of mobile-friendly URLs in the first 3 pages of the SERPs in the second week after rollout as shown in the charts below.
The current data shows that 22-23% of the URLs in the BrightEdge 20,000+ benchmark are non-mobile-friendly. We interpret this to mean that the sites are strong enough on other ranking factors that their weakness on mobile-friendliness is not enough to push them out of the top pages of the SERPs. So while Google claimed the impact would be “significant” it was not overwhelmingly so. Among the hundreds of ranking factors, it is big but not gigantic.
BrightEdge customers have had technology in place for two years to help them understand their rank and the competitive landscape across 605 local, global and mobile search engines – equipping them to win in the competitive mobile battleground.
BrightEdge takes mobile search solutions beyond the webmaster and to the marketer with a comprehensive offering that helps brands understand their organic search and content performance by device.
What does this mean for your site? If you are mobile-friendly, you may have secured a rank gain and are delivering a site experience appropriate for your mobile visitors. Good work.
If you are not mobile-friendly and did or did not lose rank, pull that mobile or responsive project through the knothole and defend or gain ground before Google decides to tweak the mobile-friendly weight again.