Google have always had the mantra ‘don’t be evil’ but in recent years this has turned into something different.
Many have pointed out that evil is not an established parameter, that it is about subtleties in what could be described as good or evil. Even in some cases where we have what seems like clear examples, ie terrorism, some claim that they are mass murderers, whilst others say they are freedom fighters.
Google are certainly not anywhere close to that level of evil, but some of their business decisions have called into question where their standard lies.
The current example of this, is changing the search algorithm affecting their ranking of mobile sites.
Although the business decision behind this doesn’t seem particularly evil, the side effects certainly will be.
The idea behind the change is that the sites that are better designed for mobile use are going to be higher in rankings on the search engine. This includes aspects like responsive design, text size and mobile friendly menus.
In the minds of some this is great as it means that the sites that work better on mobile, will be the ones who have the most traffic. To others, it means that small businesses who may have far more basic websites will essentially be deleted from Google.
So is this a good or evil move?
Studies have shown that more people are likely to view content through mobile than on desktop in 2015. This means that the sites that adapt to the needs of their customers should be rewarded for this. The problem with this is that those who haven’t or can’t make the necessary changes will have major problems with their rankings on mobile.
The brevity of this change is demonstrated simply through Google telling people about it 2 months before it happens. This gave developers time to adapt, but also shows that they expect it to have a major impact on the rankings.
It will not only be smaller companies who are affected by this either, one of the largest sites on the planet, dailymail.com, have not made their pages as mobile friendly as other sites and will have their rankings dropped accordingly. The problem is simply that they have hundreds of thousands of articles, each of which will be affected by these changes to design, meaning small changes to the basic design could make each of these almost unreadable.
The difficulty in calling this either good or evil is very much dependent on a personal perspective though.
Google is not going to be making more money from this shift, but the companies who have adapted to the changes will, and those who have not, won’t.
Perhaps the easiest answer is simply to say that Google is simply rewarding the progressive and proactive companies, whilst punishing those who have not changed. The changes could create a situation where companies lose considerable amounts of money from lost advertising revenue, and with some already having difficulty staying afloat, could spell their demise.
Ultimately we will see the impact in the next few weeks, but one thing is clear from this change; adapt or die.