A new Google (NASDAQ:GOOGL) search formula set to go in effect Tuesday could deliver a smackdown to small businesses.
Following an initial announcement in February, Google is implementing a new search algorithm that will change the way it ranks websites on mobile devices. Websites deemed mobile-friendly will get sought-after placement atop search results on smartphones and tablets. Other sites will be demoted.
Google’s new algorithm will look for sites that load quickly on mobile handsets. They also should have easy-to-read text, large link buttons and web pages that adjust to smaller screens.
Google is the leading search provider in the U.S., holding a two-thirds share by most estimates. So this week’s mobile shift will have a significant impact on businesses whose websites are designed for desktop PCs only.
Industry experts have gone as far as predicting “mobilegeddon” on April 21.
A Google spokesperson said the company has been offering tools to make web pages more mobile-friendly. Google is advising webmasters to check their sites using an online test.
In a 2013 survey from the National Small Business Administration, four out of five business owners reported having no mobile website. Even large companies could have some work to do. Somo, a U.K.-based mobile marketing firm, found that notable brands including Versace, Kellogg (NYSE:K), Nintendo and Microsoft’s (NASDAQ:MSFT) Windows Phone didn’t pass Google’s test for mobile friendliness.
But the transition shouldn’t be too difficult for the majority of sites, according to Nitin Gupta, GoDaddy’s (NYSE:GDDY) senior director of mobile product management. Gupta said most of GoDaddy’s customers are prepared for the change, while many other small businesses already have mobile pages but never looked.
“Small businesses should be thinking about what their customers need to do” online, Gupta added. “Even sites that are mobile-friendly, they may want to consider a redesign.”
Mobile devices now account for 60% of all Web traffic, based on comScore research. An estimated 29% of U.S. search requests came from mobile devices during the fourth quarter of 2014.
As a result, Google has pushed for more websites to accommodate mobile users. The new algorithm for mobile searches could move things along rather quickly.
“As people increasingly search on their mobile devices, we want to make sure they can find content that’s not only relevant and timely, but also easy to read and interact with on smaller mobile screens,” the Google spokesperson said.
Gupta believes “mobilegeddon” will prove to be a positive development for small businesses and their customers, saying the changes at Google could be a catalyst for websites to improve.
“It has been a long time coming. A lot of sites out there are bad experiences for consumers,” Gupta said. “The biggest thing is this will give mobile users better results.”