Time for companies to embrace the mobile revolution.

Google puts users first in mobile results with their algorithm update.

It has been termed “Mobilegeddon”, and for businesses reliant on a strong internet presence it is certainly no small thing, with Google recently commencing the rollout of its previously announced “mobile-friendly” update, by which the internet search giant is boosting the ranking of mobile-friendly pages for mobile search results. Upon officially beginning the rollout last month, Google warned that websites with non-mobile-friendly pages may experience “a significant decrease in mobile traffic from Google search”, with the incentive plain and clear for businesses to get on board and embrace the mobile revolution.

Google has stated it is undertaking the rollout to allow users to “more easily find high-quality and relevant results where text is readable without tapping or zooming”, providing results optimised for the device being employed by the user. The update only affects smartphones, and will not apply to tablets – and it should also be noted that it applies to website pages and not to websites in their entirety.

Of course, even without the Google update, it makes sense for companies serious about maintaining a strong online presence to go mobile-friendly. Smartphone sales have surged in recent years, with mobile devices an increasingly important, rapidly growing component of the online ecosystem. Mobile internet is becoming the go-to first point-of-access for Australian internet users, and companies that don't keep pace with developments in mobile will invariably be left behind.

Deloitte's Mobile Consumer Survey 2014 found that Australia is the sixth most concentrated smartphone market in the world, with smartphone penetration growing and dependence in turn intensifying. According to Deloitte Technology, Media and Telecommunications Leader Stuart Johnston, Australians are increasingly reaching for smartphones first thing in the morning, with most generations interacting with their phones constantly throughout the day. Johnston noted “a staggering” 9 per cent of Australians look at their phones between 50 and 100 times a day, with 6 per cent doing so either 100 or more than 200 times.

Concurrently, PC sales have been steadily declining in recent years. Telcos are progressively upping mobile plan download limits, and, amid the rollout of next-gen 4G networks throughout the country, smartphone users have greater access than ever to fast mobile internet. Wi-Fi, also, is becoming more and more prevalent, with many cities rolling out free blanket coverage in CBDs around Australia. The reach of the mobile internet in its various forms is growing at pace and, indeed, becoming all-embracing.

It is also worth noting that, from desktop to mobile, Google is by far and away the most dominant search engine across all platforms, with this showing little sign of changing any time soon. In Australia, Google dominates in all categories. Statistics from website analytics provider StatCounter show that Google commanded 96.95 per cent of the mobile search engine market in Australia in April of this year, while over the past year Google's market share of mobile searches has not dropped below 96 per cent.

However, while Google dominates the search engine market, this does not mean competition isn't emerging in other areas, with search engines by no means always the first port of call for internet users. Facebook, for example, has emerged as a major competitor for Google in the mobile advertising space. The manner in which users access the internet is constantly evolving, and in this respect, the move for Google towards mobile-friendly is by no means arbitrary – like any company, Google needs to move with the times in order to stay relevant.

It is perhaps surprising that many large companies were apparently unprepared for Google's mobile-friendly rollout. As reported by The Wall Street Journal, research by digital marketing agency Merkle | RKG found that 46 per cent of Fortune 500 companies and 25 per cent of top retailers did not have websites with mobile-friendly designations from Google at the beginning of April. While larger companies, or companies not so reliant on heavy website traffic, might be able to absorb the blow of reduced mobile traffic, for smaller companies reliant on internet exposure it could well be a matter of staying in business.

While it would appear that there has been something of a general lag in preparing for the changeover – with the rapid growth of mobile in recent years undoubtedly leaving some unprepared – there is little doubt that those who haven't yet adapted will be obliged to do so soon. As reported by The Wall Street Journal, Mark Ballard, Director of Research at Merkle | RKG, noted that the change “will probably pull the stragglers into the 21st century”.

The good news for companies that have yet to get their websites up to speed is that it is not too late to make changes. Google states that once a website becomes mobile-friendly, it will automatically reprocess the website's pages, with Google determining whether a website is mobile-friendly every time it is crawled and indexed, and rankings to be adjusted accordingly.

Businesses can check if their website's individual pages are mobile-friendly here.

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