Search results were not upended by Google's Mobile update, but there are 2 recent changes that are impacting results across the web.

Google’s mobile algorithm update has not had the monumental impact those in the search marketing industry expected. Over a month since it was rolled out, the so-called ‘Mobilegeddon’ has only slightly affected sights that aren’t considered mobile-friendly.

A small-scale study by Mockingbird Marketing tracked results (mostly for law sites) after the update, and recently wrote an article for Search Engine Land claiming the split between mobile-friendly and non-mobile-friendly sites is only 2 percent. What’s even more surprising is that the non-mobile-friendly sites are outperforming the mobile-friendly ones in this sample!

The split between mobile-friendly and non-mobile-friendly sites is only 2% – and non-mobile-friendly sites are outperforming the mobile-friendly ones!

There are a number of explanations circulating about why Google would position this algorithm as the most important update since Penguin or Panda, when it had little effect on most sites:

  • Google is going on a page-by-page basis

  • There are now more mobile sites to rank since everyone updated

  • It’s hard to assess what’s mobile-friendly or not – most evaluators are just using the mobile-friendly tag, which might leave out some pages

And while we’ve all been waiting for the mobile effect to take place, Google has quietly introduced two other updates that seem to be having a bigger impact on search results:

1. Local search results rise

Barry Schwartz wrote an article for Search Engine Roundtable exposing a sudden uptick in the number of local results in queries. He cites Mozcast data and suggests this is the return of Google’s Pigeon algorithm, swooping down in response to another fix Google just made to the search feature in Maps.

There’s no official word on this update yet, but it appears that Local results and Map packs are ranking higher in search results.

2. ‘Quality Signals’ refresh rewards sites with strong social signals

Google recently confirmed that fluctuations in rankings were NOT the results of a Panda algorithm update, but a refresh to the overall ‘Quality Signals’ algorithm. It’s already had a noticeable impact on search rankings, and according to data from Stickyeyes, is rewarding sites with stronger engagement metrics and social media signals.

This chart shows a clear correlation between the amount of time visitors spend on a site during a visit, and the site’s ranking position. Generally speaking, sites with longer dwell times have the most engaging content that’s high in quality and appealing to readers. The top-ranking sites also had the lowest bounce rates.

The study also noted a the correlation between social signals and search performance strengthening. It looks like social signals were weakened during the first part of 2015, but recently got a kickstart that’s rewarding Facebook click throughs, Facebook Likes and Google+ Plus Ones.

Notably absent is a lift for Tweets, especially considering the renewed relationship between Twitter and Google.

Learn more about this relationship and how it could impact your online marketing strategy, here: Twitter turns ‘firehose’ back on, Google to show Tweets in SERPs

Regardless, this could be a move toward a search landscape where social presences weigh in heavily, and brands with strong social media marketing will stand out in search as well. Even without that look down the road, these updates reveal Google is updating search across the board and sites that need to rank well must be vigilant and innovative with their strategies to stay one step ahead.

Content for SEO eBook smallFor more tips about how to win in today’s search marketing landscape, download Brafton’s free eBook: Content for SEO.


Lauren Kaye is a Marketing Editor at Brafton Inc. She studied creative and technical writing at Virginia Tech before pursuing the digital frontier and finding content marketing was the best place to put her passions to work. Lauren also writes creative short fiction, hikes in New England and appreciates a good book recommendation.