Why Google’s Mobilegeddon Isn’t the End of the World for Most Websites

Mobile phones background. Pile of different modern smartphones. 3d

Mobilegeddon has arrived, and the very nickname says everything you need to know about concerns over Google’s new formula for showing search results on smartphones, which just launched.

Overblown concerns, that is.

Online publishers are understandably worried about Google’s new mobile-friendly algorithm, which will provide a boost to websites that look good on smartphones while penalizing those that don’t. The change could have a potentially huge impact and raises a lot of worries that many sites will disappear from Google’s results on smartphones (results on desktops and tablets aren’t affected, nor are search ads). Even many large companies’ sites aren’t ready and many small businesses have too many other things to contend with besides yet another website project.

But the fact is that Mobilegeddon needn’t be a big deal for most sites and marketers. For one, Google is providing a test to see if sites look good on smartphones, as well as a FAQ on the implications. It’s pretty straightforward, and anecdotally, it doesn’t appear to take much for a site to be ready. My own severely neglected personal website, for instance, passes Google’s test easily.

Also, mobile-friendliness won’t be the sole factor in determining search result placement, so especially for large sites that are relevant for a particular search term in other ways, the change may not be all that large even for mobile-unfriendly sites.

And unlike previous Google algorithm changes, these aren’t aimed at elevating or downgrading entire sites. Rather, any individual pages that look OK on a smartphone will rank the same as before, and they won’t be affected by other pages on the site that don’t look good. “I don’t think this is the end of the world for most folks,” says Matt Ackley, chief marketing officer at the ad technology firm Marin Software.

Indeed, Ackley says most small businesses’ sites can be easily made mobile-ready in “under a minute,” using services such as Duda Mobile‘s that start at $60 a year. “It’s really not that hard,” he says.

So why all the talk about “mobilegeddon”? For one, because it’s catchy, especially for news outlets that don’t know SEO from SEM and probably can’t even define what an algorithm is. They get traffic, at least if their mobile sites don’t suck.

For another, it’s an opportunity for a lot of search marketing companies to make hay while the sun’s shining on what is after all a significant change in how Google presents its iconic search results. You want a mobile-ready site, laggard marketer? We can do it for you yesterday. Just sign this purchase order.

Not least, Google itself surely loves all the attention given to this change. Not the public-policy folks there, who must worry that it reinforces the notion of Google’s dominance at a time when it’s under unprecedented pressure from antitrust regulators. But the emergence of a catchy term for what Google has been telling websites for years now–that they need to go mobile or go home–could pay off big time for the search giant.

Mobile ad prices remain far below those of desktop search ads partly because what searchers do after they tap on an ad, but also because once they do, they’re often sent to a site that looks terrible on their phone. Presto: They go somewhere else and advertisers aren’t willing to pay as much for ads that don’t produce results, even if it’s their own lame site’s fault. So advertisers instead try ads on Facebook, which has seen mobile ad revenue skyrocket in the past year.

Better mobile websites are likely to lead to more “conversions,” whether that’s purchases or visits to a physical store. That’s why Google ad folks must be overjoyed at all the attention on the algorithm change, even if the nickname doesn’t thrill them. “It’s awareness-raising on the part of Google,” says Ackley. Among several of Google’s carrot-and-stick initiatives intended to help marketers dive into the mobile era, he says, “this one is the stick.”

And so far, it’s working.

This article was written by Robert Hof from Forbes and was legally licensed through the NewsCred publisher network.