Web publishers around the world are commenting on Google’s mobile-only algorithm and the common theme is one of concern for the deadline, but also a desire to do what’s best for their site visitors and the long-term goals of the business. Jim Olenbush, a real estate agent in Austin noted:
“The old site works well and it is quick loading and error free. The new responsive design was slower initially and required some work to speed it up, plus we kept finding crawl errors. We have been working on the new site for a long time, and I thought I would have it online by Jan 1st at the latest. And when Google announced their mobile “deadline” later I thought we would be online with the new site in time. But ultimately it is not quite ready, and I would rather miss out on some mobile traffic for a little while than to release a new site with issues such as broken links, missing canonicals and other errors. Those errors are bad for users, and they are also harmful to future rankings if you accidentally send Googlebot crawling a bunch of duplicate content pages on your site.”
According to Neil Marshall, the head administrator at WebmasterWorld.com, there are four major concerns dominating discussions:
1. Inherent shortcomings of mobile friendly designs
2. Lingering uncertainty as to the best solution; responsive design or a dedicated mobile site
3. Degradation of the search results if the best sites aren’t mobile friendly
4. Surprise that so many competitors aren’t already mobile friendly
Designing for Mobile Involves Difficult Choices
There are indeed many shortcomings in mobile designs, including aesthetics, particularly the awkward placement of various navigational links. And there is no clear choice as to the best solution, responsive design or dedicated mobile. Responsive designs often make compromises in site design which may not be favorable to either desktop or mobile visitors. While creating a strictly mobile solution means dealing with essentially two websites, and the headaches that come with maintaining two designs for the same content.
Will .Edu Web Pages Disappear from Google?
The concern that the mobile algo will favor lower quality mobile-friendly sites at the expense of the best sites is justified. Content hosted on .edu websites represents some of the most authoritative information available online. Will that content disappear if it’s not mobile friendly? I spoke with Gregg Banse, the Web Services Manager at George Mason University who noted that many university websites are composed of independently developed websites, with each department responsible for their own web design.
“The sites are undergoing a major overhaul as I write this. The issues stem from the fact that George Mason University departments (much like many of the larger universities) developed websites on their own because of a lack of central leadership back when it mattered most. The result is 500+ silos that we’re working to apply a common brand and bring on board a brand new CMS platform. The initial launch will be late this summer and won’t be completed until summer of 2018.”
If George Mason University is typical, then this could pose an issue with the quality of Google’s search results for which university websites are the most relevant result. 2018 is a long time to go with what may be compromised search results.
Was Mobilegeddon Not Publicized Enough?
According to Neil Marshall, web publishers have noted that many competitors are not yet mobile friendly.
“There’s surprise amongst many how few sites in their niche’s are mobile friendly, especially as we all know mobile was the next big thing a few years back.”
This is true even in Japan. I asked Daisuke Nakata, a search industry authority in Japan if Japanese websites were mobile friendly by now and he responded, “Not in general.” Then added that web publishers are concerned,
“Japanese web masters are serious about this algorithm change.”
Lada Kalashnickova of the Russian search industry news site, SearchEngines.ru, noted that web publishers have been anticipating this deadline with great interest.
“Russian web publishers are concerned with the mobile update, of course. We are trying to stay up to date with mobile friendly sites regardless of Google’s deadline, we find it very important. It is not so much fear that is motivating concern for the deadline, but then again we can not say it is business as usual either.”
That may very well sum up the general mood of web publishers around the world. For many this may be a non-event because they’ve already updated their sites. For others it’s business as usual, just one more thing to deal with. How this affects .Edu websites is an important consideration and how that will be resolved remains to be seen. Will high quality university sites be whitelisted and receive a free pass or will their authoritative information go missing on Google? How about you, are your sites mobile friendly? What is happening where you are at?