Next.co.uk – the first victim of Mobilegeddon?

Next logo

 
By Stacey MacNaught

It’s been six  days since the rollout of Google’s mobile algorithm update, dubbed “mobilegeddon”, began.

It’s been a long time coming, but nonetheless it was unusual in the way that Google announced the specific date we could expect the rollout way back in February. National news outlets including Sky and the BBC also covered the change, leading  many to expect near-apocalyptic shifts in the SERPs.

After  a very quiet first day it started to look like it might all have been a bit more talk than action from Google.

But after analysing data updated by SearchMetrics, it appears the UK has its first big brand victim in retailer  next.co.uk. The headline figures from SearchMetrics show that next.co.uk has dropped a whopping 38% of its organic visibility on mobile search in the past week:

Next SEO visibility
 

Next.co.uk’s mobile offering

A number of us have been asking the question for years – when will next.co.uk get a mobile site?

Go to next.co.uk on your mobile and you’ll suffer a pretty painful pinch and zoom experience when simply trying to browse, let alone buy anything.

Next site on mobile
 
Needless to say, the site fails Google’s own “mobile friendly“ test.

Next not friendly Google
 
It performs poorly on Google’s Mobile User Experience Recommendations tool too.

Next user recommendations
 
Unsurprisingly, the site hasn’t earned a mobile friendly badge from Google.
 

But there actually IS a mobile site!

This is where it gets odd. A manual check for m.next.co.uk reveals there actually IS a mobile website:

Next mobile site
 
However, the site hasn’t been set-up to redirect mobile users automatically and, at the time of writing, brand searches on a mobile still show the main, non-mobile website:

Next SERPS
 
The site appears to have existed since March 2014, based on a Wayback Machine search for the splash page at next.co.uk/mobile, but still hasn’t been indexed by Google. This has been caused by the mobile site’s robots.txt file being set up to block all user agents.
 

How much visibility has Next really lost on mobile?

38% visibility loss on mobile for a site with as much visibility as next.co.uk is a big deal.

But let’s look at some specific keywords and rankings. We’ve also looked at the approximate search volume for these search terms and, importantly, the proportion of searches Google states come from a mobile device.

(Note – all rankings checked in incognito mode on Chrome.)

Next keyword chart
 
SearchMetrics (as of 23  April) shows significantly larger differences between mobile and desktop visibility than our manual checks show. A sample from the SearchMetrics report:

Next SearchMetrics
 
This suggests some further fluctuations (both positive and negative) for Next since 23  April.

Even with the differences highlighted from a number of our manual searches, there’s still a significant amount of traffic at stake for next.co.uk.

And with a  particularly high proportion of searches around their products coming from mobiles, it’s even more important that they address their mobile issues.
 

Fixing it

Next has a mobile website already, but the site hasn’t been set-up for indexing in Google. The retailer should:

* Set the robots.txt up to ensure Google and other search engines can crawl the site.
* Redirect users on smartphone devices to the mobile version of the website.
* Follow Google’s annotation advice outlined at https://developers.google.com/webmasters/mobile-sites/mobile-seo/configurations/separate-urls.
 

Making it better

Fixing the crawling and indexing issues is the first step for Next. But simply having a mobile site isn’t enough.

Next is competing with some big names for their organic visibility including Asos, Boohoo, Debenhams and John Lewis, all of whom have mobile sites of varying speeds and quality. They’ll need to ensure they’re at least matching their competitors in terms of mobile performance.

And, most importantly, ensuring that users can browse and buy easily and efficiently on any device will be absolutely paramount to driving sales on smartphones – particularly given the phenomenal volume of smartphone specific searches in their area.

 


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Tecmark Author Stacey MacNaught

About the Author

Stacey MacNaught: Search Director

Stacey joined us in 2009 as a junior copywriter; now she’s a recognised figure on the global speaking circuit, having wowed audiences in the UK, Europe and US – including at MozCon 2014. She leads our search team and works with clients to deliver high-level campaign strategies.

Visit Stacey's Page
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