Google update caused confusion and hit sales for SMEs in US, study finds

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The first study analyzing the impact of Google’s mobile update has revealed confusion and concern amongst many businesses at the inconsistent and unpredictable impact the update had caused.

The study of 2000 SMEs (small and medium sized businesses) across the USA, released by Koozai, a leading digital marketing agency, found businesses had experienced a drop in organic rankings and traffic even though they had optimized their websites for mobile.

Predicted as resulting in mobilegeddon for many companies with websites that weren’t mobile compliant, the latest Google update had been predicted to have a big impact on SMEs for their failure to optimize quickly enough.

Yet the survey found that 69% of businesses responded that the suggestion the update would cause mobilegeddon (that websites would disappear completely from mobile search results) was overhyped, incorrect and unhelpful.

However, 46% of businesses still claimed they had experienced changes to their rankings or traffic as a result of the Google update.

Of these 41% were concerned that they had seen a drop in rankings by at least three places and had noticed a drop in traffic as a result, some as much as 50%

A worrying 27% of these respondents had seen a drop in rankings even though they had optimized for mobile.

Of the businesses responding, 37% were said to be concerned that the update might have an impact on sales, while 44% were not worried as they said most of their sales came from desktops.

About 12% of respondents said they didn’t know whether their websites were optimized for mobile or not.

A significant number of SMEs in the survey were unsure about the relationship between mobile and desktop searches, with 49% revealing they didn’t know if sales on their desktops sites had initially come from visitors viewing their products or services on mobile.

Ben Norman, CEO of Koozai, said: “The hype that the Google mobile update would cause carnage in the search engine rankings missed the larger picture. Exaggerating the impact meant that businesses didn’t anticipate that even small changes in their ranking can have an big impact on their organic mobile search results.

“The survey reveals inconsistent effects are being felt by businesses that has resulted in confusion and concern. When a business has optimized for mobile then drops three places, it is understandable that they feel angry that they have acted on Google’s warnings and yet have still experienced a negative impact.

“With more than 200 Google ranking factors, many businesses may have dropped in the organic search results when a competitor optimized for mobile because they were better optimized for some of these other ranking factors.

“The survey also uncovered a worrying lack of understanding in the SME community of ecommerce analytics. Many consumers today will research on mobile than go onto purchase on desktop. Many SMEs are missing out on these lead creation opportunities if they don’t know if their ecommerce sites aren’t giving their potential customers a good experience on mobile.”