Google’s mobile search update could hit retailers hard

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Apr 27, 2015
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Through a special arrangement, what follows is an excerpt of an article from FierceRetail, an e-newsletter and website covering the latest retail technology news and analysis.

Google’s big search algorithm switch happened on Apr. 21, meaning mobile-friendly sites will enjoy the most searchability from mobile devices and retailers, especially small businesses without mobile-friendly sites, could take the biggest hit.

The new search algorithm was announced in February and will give higher rankings to sites that are mobile-friendly. For Google, that means sites are meeting five major criteria:

  • Users don’t have to pinch and zoom to navigate;
  • Incompatible software like Flash isn’t used;
  • Text is large enough to read;
  • Links and buttons are spaced out enough to be easily tapped, and;
  • Components such as Javascript and style sheets aren’t blocked that are necessary to render the page.


Source: Google’s mobile-friendly test page

If your brand’s site meets all of those requirements, then you can relax. But according to research released by Somo last week, many major brands aren’t ready for "mobilegeddon" and will have to scramble to minimize the damage done to their traffic numbers. Based on Google’s own Mobile-Friendly Test tool, brands including American Apparel, Clairol, Versace and Cotton Traders were all set to be punished by the new algorithm.

And with Google accounting for so much search traffic, even major brands will take a hit. EBay lost 80 percent of its top rankings during the last algorithm update, and since the top spot in any search gets as many clicks as the next five combined, that’s a big loss.

But while all brands should be on the lookout for a drop in their rankings, Duda CEO Itai Sadan told Business Insider that small business owners could be the ones hit the hardest, since they are more likely to have missed the memo on the new searchability requirements.

Their dependence on local search results also makes them especially vulnerable because a drop in ranking among searches of, for example, coffee shops in San Francisco could result in a big drop in foot traffic.

"Google has always been about relevancy, and content is king," Mr. Sadan told Business Insider. "But that’s changing. Yes, they’re saying content is still extremely important, but user experience is just as important. It’s not sufficient to have all the right content. If people come to your site and the content is there but it’s not readable, that’s not good."

For now the algorithm change will only impact search results on phones, leaving tablet results unfazed. But considering that mobile now makes up about 60 percent of all digital traffic, retailers of all sizes should be ready to up their mobile game if their search ranking plummets in the coming days.

Is Google’s update of its mobile-friendly algorithm a big deal for retailers? At this point in the evolution of mobile commerce, how sophisticated do mobile retail websites need to be?

Please practice The RetailWire Golden Rule when submitting your comments.
Braintrust
"I’m not claiming any tech expertise here, but it’s apparent that e-commerce is migrating rapidly to m-commerce and the leader in search needed to do something about it."
"Too many retailers have not made the effort to adapt accordingly. Now Google is forcing the issue."
"Honestly, if the site isn’t mobile-friendly they’re better off NOT showing up in search results."

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11 Comments on "Google’s mobile search update could hit retailers hard"


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Dick Seesel
Guest
4 years 8 months ago

I’m not claiming any tech expertise here, but it’s apparent that e-commerce is migrating rapidly to m-commerce and the leader in search needed to do something about it. Yes, retailers who are not ready for this need to do some development in a hurry (just as most of them have already adapted to the need for apps). But this is no different from those companies’ need to get a robust presence on the Web in the first place, when it was strictly tied to desktops and laptops.

Max Goldberg
Guest
4 years 8 months ago

The updated algorithm is a big deal for retailers. Mobile has been trending upwards for years. Too many retailers have not made the effort to adapt accordingly. Now Google is forcing the issue. This change does not require a lot of sophistication. Rather, it calls for common sense. Consumers are frustrated by trying to use non-adapted websites on their mobile devices. This is about to change. And it’s change for the better.

Paula Rosenblum
Guest
4 years 8 months ago

Honestly, if the site isn’t mobile-friendly they’re better off NOT showing up in search results. There’s nothing more frustrating than trying to use a site on a tablet that has pop-ups or Flash. It’s time to fix these things.

Bob Phibbs
Guest
4 years 8 months ago

Any change in Google’s algorithm is a big deal. I would challenge it will not hit smaller retailers the same way as they are usually found more on local search. As long as their local information is current and up-to-date in Yelp and on Google’s MyBusiness section, they’ll have time before upgrading their sites. Which should be done, of course sooner than later, but it isn’t the mobilegeddon presented here.

Mohamed Amer
Guest
Mohamed Amer
4 years 8 months ago

Consumers’ move to mobile everything is what’s really big for retailers and Google’s updated algorithm is a further acknowledgment that consumers go mobile first. Retailers, if not already doing so, need to catch up quickly to this unflagging consumer trend.

Steve Montgomery
Guest
4 years 8 months ago

Like Dick I am not claiming any tech expertise but I did go to the Google test page and entered our site and then followed up with several other tools they provided just to see what they did and what changes they recommended. I am assuming that a retailer’s tech team could make the required changes but the larger the site the more time and cost will be involved.

The issue will be for the smaller retailers who may have created their own sites or had someone they know do it. The skill sets to build a desktop site may not be sufficient and those individuals/companies that can make the required adjustments are likely to be in high demand for the near future.

For many of these smaller retailers there really is not a choice. This would be especially true in a tourist city like New York, San Francisco or Chicago among others.

Ashley Boggs
Guest
Ashley Boggs
4 years 8 months ago
Yes, it’s a very big deal because mobile really matters for retailers. According to our latest study in the UPS Pulse of the Online Shopper, over half of search and browsing traffic is coming from mobile devices including smartphones and tablets (let alone the phablet!). As screen sizes get larger (i.e., the iPhone 6 and the Samsung Galaxy) even more shopping will occur on mobile devices. Retailers cannot afford not to have a mobile-optimized site with what is called “responsive design.” There are standard rules followed by the best web e-commerce providers that ensure that no matter what browser or device, your site is searchable. All of this contributes to the ranking of your site through Google and Bing, which contribute over half of all sales for retailers according to USA Today’s holiday report. Can anyone afford to lose 10 percent or more of their traffic as it contributes to the overall sales funnel? Not in today’s competitive climate. Small changes with the right search engine partner coordinated with an optimized e-commerce platform will make… Read more »
Darius Vasefi
Guest
Darius Vasefi
4 years 8 months ago

This is a good checklist to get general mobile usability right, but also good to dig deeper into the customer base to see if any additional unique features could be added to appeal to them—do something that is different and memorable beyond what everyone else is doing.

Arie Shpanya
Guest
4 years 8 months ago

Google’s algorithm is absolutely a big deal for retailers. The best bet for retailers is to invest in a responsive website. That way it can adapt to the screen a shopper is using.

Google has really thrown a wrench in the eCommerce sphere with this one because it’s a sink or swim issue. No retailer can say that they have no problem having less traffic and sales because of an antiquated website.

Gordon Arnold
Guest
4 years 8 months ago

Information Technology (IT) users, regardless of the device in topic, look for easy to use and fast. Smart phones have very limited real estate for viewer, hardware components and software/apps. One of the reasons for migration from phone to tablet was user ability to view cluttered screens. The technology is out there to minimize burdening effects of sites originally designed for 15 inch screens or larger, but ownership was and is slow to acknowledge the need and migrate. If Google was and is watching the user base the need to make a move like this was very obvious. IT is very unforgiving to companies of any size or significance. You are either in, going out of favor or gone. Google’s move is to stay relavent for the now.

Kai Clarke
Guest
4 years 8 months ago

Yes! This is a key part of our website evolution, and has been a long-time coming. Everyone should be mobile friendly, and this should be an inherent part of all retail websites, search engines, etc. Why wouldn’t it be?

wpDiscuz
Braintrust
"I’m not claiming any tech expertise here, but it’s apparent that e-commerce is migrating rapidly to m-commerce and the leader in search needed to do something about it."
"Too many retailers have not made the effort to adapt accordingly. Now Google is forcing the issue."
"Honestly, if the site isn’t mobile-friendly they’re better off NOT showing up in search results."

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