THE BLOG

The Lies From 'Mobilegeddon' Will Hurt Us All

12/05/2015 10:09 BST | Updated 11/05/2016 10:59 BST

It's actually starting to become quite embarrassing now. Even to the point of people starting to question whether this was all just a ruse to get them to part with their hard earned cash.

Unless you have been in a vacuum of late you can't have helped noticed that Google made a small change to their ranking algorithm. This one even made the National news but unfortunately to make it sound sexier it was dubbed 'Mobilegeddon'.

It followed the now fairly standard anatomy of a scare story starting with a simple announcement from Google which quickly became an exaggerated scare story which continued to grow despite the appearance of contradictory data, latched onto by the press eager for a story to hype and finally to headlines screaming 'Mobilegeddon' designed to alarm business website owners.

And it worked as bewildered business owners started looking online for answers. Sadly what they found was puff and rhetoric with predictions of dire consequences for anyone who ignored the incoming tsunami.

The scares included such claims as 'your website will be removed from Google search if you are not mobile friendly' to 'no one will be able to find you if they search for your brand on a mobile or a tablet'. One story even offered the chance that 'your entire business could be wiped out unless you act now'.

I have spent the best part of six weeks adding comments to many of these stories urging the people writing them to stop and think for a moment what they are saying. Not only was all of this wrong, in many cases it was deliberately misleading. Either that or plain ignorant, but as these were all 'experts' then I'll leave you to decide.

What Google actually said was;

"Starting April 21, we will be expanding our use of mobile-friendliness as a ranking signal. This change will affect mobile searches in all languages worldwide and will have a significant impact in our search results. Consequently, users will find it easier to get relevant, high quality search results that are optimized for their devices."

What they did not say here you will notice was any of the scares that started appearing in the press.

Granted Google is pushing to improve user experience by raising the bar on mobile search but its core purpose remains to deliver to end users the answer to their queries.

As an example, if a user were to search for Pepsi there would be little benefit in Google returning Coke if they were the only ones with a mobile optimised website.

So given that the change happened on 21 April how many stories do you think have currently surfaced showing big brands that have been wiped out by this change? Or even small brands come to that?

The answer of course is none. Nothing happened. Like Y2K (remember that) the hype was so great that its own PR overshadowed the event itself.

Does that mean that these stories have gone away? Absolutely not and I'm still commenting on all of those that I find with stupid and or inaccurate predictions. I also still find myself railing against 'snake oil salesmen' every time one of these stupid stories raises its head or another spam email predicting my website's doom lands in the inbox.

What most of these people fail to grasp is that in an industry where we are providing digital services, in the main to clients who cannot do this themselves, a huge amount of business relies on trust and credibility. Without trust we have no credibility and the more people peddle half-truths like these the less likely we are to be trusted as an industry.

So given that the event has been and gone and the sky didn't fall can we now return to a period of normality? One in which we are not trying to flog wares on the back of unfounded scare stories? And can we do it sooner rather than later as if the industry continues to peddle these lies then the long-term damage may well be irreparable.

Jonathan Guy is Managing Director of Aqueous Digital