Aqueous Digital

So many lies about mobile friendly websites, it’s hard to know where to start

It still astonishes me how people will prey on the unknowing and use a small piece of misinformation to gouge open a huge opportunity for sales.

This week we received this email in our inbox; nothing unusual in that as we get hundreds of emails a day, many unsolicited, offering us all sort of weird and wonderful things. This one however caught my eye for all the wrong reasons.

Google mobile penalty email

First up the subject line started with Re: in an attempt to get me to think that we’d previously been in correspondence.

Re mobileWe hadn’t, nor I hope will we ever if this is their idea of marketing. I am sure however that a number of people would be fooled into thinking that they knew this company.


Then the grabber headline which is completely false. I’m sure if Google is reading this they might want to have a word with them about this as it is not only false it completely misrepresents what Google is trying to achieve.

Google mobile penalty email

For those who haven’t’ heard about the ‘mobile’ issue or as it was dubbed earlier this year ‘mobilegeddon’ then it relates to an announcement by Google that from April 21st they would be changing the way they rank websites depending on their mobile-friendliness.

What they actually said was:

“Starting April 21, we will be expanding our use of mobile-friendliness as a ranking signal. This change will affect mobile searches in all languages worldwide and will have a significant impact in our search results. Consequently, users will find it easier to get relevant, high quality search results that are optimized for their devices.”

We covered this at the time as there was a lot of misinformation flying around and it seems that the practice hasn’t abated yet.

As you can see from the big headline, you are told quite clearly that if you are not mobile friendly then Google will penalise you. No if’s or but’s; you are getting a penalty.

This is of course, nonsense.

Google haven’t penalised anyone for not being mobile friendly and, in fact, one of our clients has a distinctly non-responsive site but their traffic is still going up. So how can that be?

Well to get the answer to this you need to look at why Google have taken this step. The simple fact is that more and more of us are now getting online on a mobile device and more searches are now coming from mobile than ever before. Mobile search will soon overtake desktop search worldwide as we become more connected and have always on internet.

As Google is in the business of matching a search query with the most relevant answer it also wants to make sure you can easily read that answer. On a lot of older sites this simply isn’t the case.

So they aren’t actively penalising sites that are not mobile friendly but….if a rival site that is mobile friendly produces a page which has the same or a better answer to a searchers query then over time the mobile friendly site will probably appear higher on mobile searches. On desktop there may be no difference but on mobile Google are looking at both the right answer to the search query and the ease with which a user can access that information.

Undeterred by the fact that their grabber headline is wrong on so many levels, they then go on to make up more lies.

Google mobile penalty lies

“According to Google themselves over 70% of all searches are now conducted via mobile devices” I’ve no ideas where the 70% figure comes from.  According to the latest research (October 2015)  just 50% of all Google searches worldwide searches are now made on mobile. Of course this will vary from country to country but it isn’t 70% anywhere…yet.

Google mobile penalty lies

Next “Google now measure if you have a mobile website…”. Really? This is presented as some kind of new development, but it’s not. Google have been able to establish mobile versions of websites for years.

“…and how good it is when determining how high in their rankings you feature” Good in what sense? That is answers a user’s search query? That it is mobile friendly? That it has clean code? That it is in a language you understand? No clear definition of good here so this seems a bit vague, woolly and subjective. And no clear indication of how this ‘good’ helps you rank higher. If you can’t define ‘good’ you can’t do anything about rankings can you?

Next we have the fabulous and unsubstantiated;

Google mobile penalty lies

“Your brand is damaged if your customers and potential customers cannot navigate your website via mobile devices.”

Seriously, did you guys just make this stuff up?

First of all, where is the evidence that brand is damaged by the inability of people to browse your website on a mobile device? If there is even one empirical study that can substantiate this claim I’d love to see it.

Moreover, how would people not be able to browse any website on a mobile device? Sure some of them might be harder to do; you might need to pinch and zoom, or scroll, but I haven’t seen any websites that you can’t actually navigate anywhere at all.

And when you talk about ‘brand’ how are you measuring this? Sure if you are Coca Cola or Nike or Google then brand may be important to you and that brand will have equity and goodwill, but to Joe the Plumber? What is his brand equity and how are you measuring this? Can you seriously say that because someone can’t quite see the links on their mobile device that his brand is damaged?

Then we get to the killer. The real ‘benefit’ having already told you how bad things are with your ‘non mobile friendly’ website.

In big bold letters, stated as absolute fact,

Google mobile penalty lies

“You will increase leads and sales immediately if you make your website mobile friendly.”

No if’s, no buts. It is fact. The day you launch your new mobile version of your website (obviously built by these Charlies) you WILL see a massive difference. Instant sales pick up the same day. More leads. This is fabulous; why on earth would you delay? Pick the phone up now and throw cash at these people!

They then go on to offer you a free website check if you click on their link. Well I can save you the bother; here’s Google’s official testing website. This will tell you if your website is mobile friendly or not.

If you are mobile friendly then good news, no further action required. If however Google reckons you are not mobile friendly then it’s probably time to look for a refresh. And the best way to do that is to choose some reputable companies who build websites and ask them to quote.

We don’t actually build websites, but we know lots of people who do and can happily get your three quotes if needed. And at the end of it you can be assured that you know who you have dealt with and that you haven’t been ripped off.

As you can probably tell, I hate this type of marketing. I hate the lies, the deceit and the fact that they prey on the unwitting. I despise the anonymity of their approach; their email hides who they are, where they’re based and has no contact details other than a ‘buy now’ button.

And therein lies the saving grace of all this. When I clicked on the link to find out who they were, the link was broken. There is a god. Justice prevails. Even if people are hoodwinked by this claptrap they can’t actually spend any money with these snake oil salesmen, whoever they are.


More Articles