Google search mo­bile switch a revo­lu­tion for some

The China Post - - WORLD BUSINESS - BY LU­CIE GODEAU

Google’s lat­est In­ter­net revo­lu­tion this week saw the Web gi­ant mod­ify its search al­go­rithm to fa­vor mo­bile-friendly sites, in a bid to up­stage Ap­ple that U.S. me­dia branded a “mobilegeddon.”

U.S. tech­nol­ogy web­site WIRED de­scribed Tues­day’s al­go­rithm switch as “likely the big­gest change of the past three years.

“And it’s re­minder of the won­der­fully mag­nan­i­mous yet deeply self­ish way that Google uses its mar­ket power to ac­cel­er­ate changes across the rest of the In­ter­net,” it added.

The change comes in the same week as a Google an­nounce­ment it will launch its own U.S. mo­bile wire­less ser­vice, with con­sid­er­able po­ten­tial sav­ings for cus­tomers us­ing their de­vices at home and for in­ter­na­tional travel.

Google ar­gues its al­go­rithm revo­lu­tion is good for users.

“We want to make sure they can find con­tent that’s not only rel­e­vant and timely, but also easy to read and in­ter­act with on smaller mo­bile screens,” Google said in a state­ment to WIRED.

More than half of In­ter­net searches world­wide are made on mo­bile phones, a trend that is driven by fig­ures out of de­vel­op­ing coun­tries where smart­phone pen­e­tra­tion is higher than com­put­ers.

In 2011, a change to Google’s search al­go­rithm af­fected 10 per­cent of English-lan­guage web­sites, while the 2012 change im­pacted some four per­cent, ac­cord­ing to WIRED.

But the re­cent change, the ex­tent of whose im­pact can­not yet be fully mea­sured, has also sent shock­waves among brand own­ers and mar­keters, for whom on­line visibility is hugely im­por­tant.

“Google has the power of life or death over some web­sites. A drop in Google rank­ing can mean a 60 to 80 per­cent loss in turnover,” e-mar­ket­ing firm JVWEB’s pres­i­dent Jonathan Vi­dor told AFP.

Even if mo­bile phones bring in only a small pro­por­tion of rev­enues, “ev­ery­one is scared Google might do some­thing dras­tic,” Vi­dor added.

Con­tested Im­pact

While it threat­ens to throw web­sites that have not been adapted to smart­phone tech­nol­ogy to the bot­tom of search rank­ings, the change in­tro­duced Tues­day has yet to cause the ma­jor im­pact ex­perts had pre­dicted.

“I ob­served ab­so­lutely no im- pact” on Tues­day said Benoit Sil­lard, direc­tor of lead­ing French pub­lisher CCM Bench­mark, 40 per­cent of whose fi­nance, women’s and news mag­a­zines on­line vis­its are via mo­bile.

“It will take at least a week be­fore we see an ini­tial im­pact, as the al­go­rithm is go­ing through a learn­ing phase,” said Paul Amsellem, who heads a mar­ket­ing, tech­nol­ogy and mo­bile phone ad­ver­tis­ing firm, the Mo­bile Net­work Group.

Amsellem be­lieves “Google has just lost its mo­bile search bet” by plac­ing un­re­al­is­tic - and ul­ti­mately un­ful­filled — hopes in web­sites shift­ing over to mo­bile plat­forms en masse.

Mo­bile phone ap­pli­ca­tions pi­o­neered by Ap­ple are still com­ing out on top in the race for the In­ter­net throne.

Ap­ple had placed its bets very early in the game on mo­bile phone down­loads, Amsellem said, giv­ing the tech­nol­ogy icon the lead by tak­ing con­trol of ap­pli­ca­tions, con­tent and graph­ics, mak­ing users’ ex­pe­ri­ence “the best it can be.”

Google’s An­droid apps are also hugely popular, but they tend to be less user-friendly than their Ap­ple com­peti­tors.

Google risks los­ing users

if

its search re­sults are not ad­e­quately adapted. It may even lose out in rev­enues from ad­ver­tis­ing and spon­sored links - the com­pany’s main source of money.

And Google earns less any­way if users go straight to apps, rather than use the search en­gine to get where they want to go.

Ul­ti­mately, Google’s dras­tic move may mean users sim­ply can­not find the site they’re look­ing for.

Ac­cord­ing to U. S. mag­a­zine Techcrunch, 44 per­cent of For­tune 500 web­sites failed the search test, and an­other four per­cent of sites did not pro­duce a re­sult.

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