Google’s recent update to its mobile search algorithm dramatically cut visitor numbers to a third of sites owned by UK small firms.
According to the first study examining the impact of the update, 39pc of small business owners reported a drop in Google rankings by three places or more. As a result, traffic was down as much as 50pc.
The survey of 1,000 small-to-medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) by digital marketing agency Koozai found 32pc of small firms were concerned it could harm sales.
At London Technology Week last week, Eileen Naughton, managing director and VP for sales and operations in Google UK-Ireland, said more than half of all UK searches are now done via mobile.
Google’s mobile update, launched on April 21, included “mobile-friendliness” as a ranking factor, meaning mobile-friendly sites rank higher in searches.
Mobile optimisation makes websites easier to navigate and read on a smaller screen. However, 22pc of small businesses that have dropped in rankings claim their site was already optimised.
Traffic to Stephen Bennett’s internet blocker and web filter provider StopProcrastinatingApp.com halved after the Google update, yet he had updated his site for mobile.
“I had taken the warning so did not expect that the update would affect my company,” he said. “I realised something was wrong a week after the update. Traffic to my website from Google searches had dropped by 50pc.”
Mr Bennett is investigating why his site was downgraded but says Google has not been forthcoming on it.
“It is not only costly when your website drops places but also it costs money to pay experts to try to find out the reason why,” he said. “It could have put me out of business.”
Asked to comment, Google’s spokesman cited its blog, which said: “We’ve been encouraging webmasters to create sites that avoid the pitfalls of small text and hard-to-navigate formatting.
"Non-mobile-friendly sites won’t disappear from search results – they may still rank high if they hold great content.”