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Cory Doctorow
mobile fail

It's not just small businesses being punished after 'mobilegeddon'

Government and big business websites are also failing the mobile test.

YOU MAY HAVE missed it, but today was the beginning of a new era for Google searches.

In a major change – dubbed “mobilegeddon” for many unprepared small businesses – the overwhelmingly dominant search engine re-jigged its ranking system for results on mobile devices.

While the search-formula shift has no effect on desktop site rankings, it means smarphone users are more likely to hit on a site suited to their devices – rather than one of those annoying, impossible-to-read versions designed for a big screen.

But the trade-off will be some sites getting bumped down the search rankings based purely on their appearance and ease-of-use.

The new Googlebot number crunching will favour mobile sites with features like large text, easy-to-select links and automatic resizing to fit different screens.

Google got a new PR department surrealpenguin surrealpenguin

Those that pass the test and are designated mobile-friendly will be boosted up the search rankings, with those deemed failures demoted.

The change is expected to hit small and medium enterprises (SMEs) without smartphone-optimised sites particularly hard, especially those in industries like hospitality and retail that rely heavily on appearing prominently in search results to drag in business.

Over half of all Irish SMEs that have websites use designs unsuited to mobile devices, according to IEDR figures.

Who’s failing?

However it’s not just the small players that have failed to keep pace with the rise of smartphones – which made up 59% of the mobile subscription market last year.

Ahead of the changes today, mobile marketing company Somo put together a list of popular sites which weren’t optimised for mobile and would accordingly be bumped down Google search results.

It included the EU’s official site, the Daily Mail and Ireland’s own Ryanair.

Ryanair goes mobile Niall Carson / PA Wire Niall Carson / PA Wire / PA Wire’s own mobile search for “flights in Ireland” reveals the mobile-friendly Aer Lingus site gets pushed ahead in the results, although if you haven’t already heard of the budget carrier you probably don’t have a smartphone – or possibly any connection with the outside world.

Similarly, the mobile-friendly sites for Bank of Ireland, Ulster Bank and AIB bump down the pages of smaller players like KBC, which aren’t optimised for handheld devices, in the results list.

Many government websites, including and, and its main portal,, all get failing grades.

Fail2 Google Google

That means the government isn’t doing much to make its sites easy for mobile visitors, despite Ireland having a relatively high rate of smartphone use.

However Google correctly returns all the sites as the first search result because, well, there aren’t too many of these around:


Many semi-state agencies are better set up for smartphones, with Irish Rail and An Post both deemed mobile-friendly.

And the list of sites that pass the mobile test also includes that most-unloved of all quangos, Irish Water.

Water Google Google

First published 3.42pm

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