Academic journal article Informatica Economica

Considerations for the Mobile Web. Paradigm Shift

Academic journal article Informatica Economica

Considerations for the Mobile Web. Paradigm Shift

Article excerpt


I n recent years, the number of mobile devices (smartphones, phablets, tablets) and of mobile device users has grown considerably, impacting on user behavior, especially with respect to Web browsing habits.

To support this mobile trend, Google has undertaken and still undertakes numerous efforts, by continuously updating its search algorithm in order to meet the users' needs more effectively. On the other hand, according to Google's latest algorithms, website owners constantly struggle to optimize content in order to score higher in search results [1]. On the whole, these optimization efforts benefit both the indexing process and mobile users.

One of the reasons why Google offers priority to mobile-optimized web pages and favors the "mobile first" approach is that nowadays most users use their mobile devices to search online [2]. Mobile online searches have been growing yearly, with 2015 registering more mobile-based than desktop-based online searches [3].

Google states that "more Google searches take place on mobile devices than on computers in 10 countries including the US and Japan", however, without giving further details [4]. This fact, which seems to confirm Google's interest in mobile Web, has stimulated greater efforts toward offering users better mobile experience [5].

As depicted in Figure 1 timeline, Google made public its interest in mobile browsing as early as 2010, and the first major step was taken in October 2014, when the company introduced the Mobile Usability report in Webmaster Tools [6].

Of the many steps taken by Google in this direction [6], we would like to mention two which, in our opinion, have the strongest impact on mobile Web:

* Mobile-friendly algorithm update - Mobilegeddon (April 21, 2015);

* Mobile-first index (November 2016).

2Mobile-Friendly Algorithm Update

On 21 April 2015, Google launched the Mobile-friendly algorithm update (MFAU), their new mobile ranking system (nicknamed Mobilegeddon), through which mobile search engine results pages (SERPs) are influenced by the website's "mobile friendliness" [7]. This update of the search algorithms only impacts mobile-based online searches, regardless of the language used or of the country of origin [8].

MFAU aims to significantly alter search results on mobile devices by giving priority to mobile-friendly instead of non-mobilefriendly websites. This change does not affect desktop/laptop-based searches. Google's intention is to facilitate access to mobilefriendly websites for mobile device users [1]. A mobile-friendly website is essentially a normal website which works well and is displayed properly on both desktop/laptop and mobile devices. The site can be shrunk down so as to be small enough to be displayed on a mobile device. Even if the user must zoom and scroll, the website is displayed and works properly. The experience may not be perfect, but the website can be decently displayed and browsed [9].

Due to MFAU, the websites whose owners failed to implement a strategy to adapt the sites themselves as well as their content to mobile device experience will rank lower than mobile-friendly websites [8].

In order to give website owners time to prepare for imminent changes and to give the world the chance to benefit from their advantages, Google made public its intention to introduce MFAU two months before it was due to be launched [10].

Following this statement, Google noticed a 4,7% growth in the number of mobile-friendly websites in March and April 2015. Fear of MFAU (hence the apocalyptic connotations of the label Mobilegeddon) and of potential traffic loss made many website owners upgrade them to mobile-friendly level [11].

A lot of people were persuaded that the April 2015 upgrade would have a devastating effect on businesses lacking mobile presence online [12], but this proved less serious than expected. Those monitoring ranking changes did not notice anything that would justify Google's statements according to which this update surpassed previous Panda or Penguin updates [13]. …

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