Press Releases

Sinu Blog: Playing with Sand

  • Friday

    New Google mobile algorithm changes search rankings, 40% of businesses affected

    It's been coined "Mobilegeddon" because it caught many small businesses by surprise. On Tuesday, April 21, Google – which is used for approximately two-thirds of online searches – made a major update to its search algorithm that changes how websites are ranked when users search for something from their phone.

    Mobile-friendly websites will now get a more favorable Google ranking. For example, responsive websites that resize to fit whatever screen they're viewed on will move ahead along with sites with large text and easy-to-click links. 

    An estimated 40% of businesses are not mobile-friendly, according to USA Today, and will likely drop in search rankings because of Google's new algorithm. The percentage of small businesses affected is estimated to be even higher. 

    "Small businesses are generally seen at greater risk, because they have a higher likelihood of not knowing about the update, or not having the time or resources to make changes," Itai Sadan, CEO of website building company Duda, told Business Insider in a recent report.

    Over half of online searches are conducted with mobile devices, and there are potential benefits to Google if more websites are mobile-friendly. Matt Ackley, chief marketing officer of Marin Software, explains in the WSJ report that advertisers typically pay less for clicks from phones, because they less often lead to sales, and encouraging more mobile-friendly websites should lead to more sales which will lead to higher prices for Google’s mobile ads. 

    Google often changes its algorithm, usually with no notice, in order to limit companies' abilities to game the Google ranking system. In February, the company made an unprecedented announcement that this change was coming, and even gave tips on how to prepare, yet many small businesses owners claim that this change took them by surprise. Google even published a "Mobile-Friendly" test page in its developer section that anybody can use to see if a website is mobile-friendly according to these new algorithms. 

    USA TODAY tested many top brands with the Google test and reports that while many passed the test, several did not, including some large companies such as California Pizza Kitchen, Versace, and European airline Ryanair. Website TechCrunch found that 44% of the Fortune 500 companies failed the mobile-friendly test.

    Small businesses that don't have the budgets of a Fortune 500 company are now scrambling to try to make their websites mobile-friendly in order to prevent any loss in ranking and sales. USA Today provided these tips:

    • As a short-term fix, make sure local information is current and up-to-date in Yelp and on Google's MyBusiness section, since most local businesses are found these days through directory services like Yelp and Google's local search listings.
    • Call a local website host. Many have tools in place to transition websites. For instance, GoDaddy, the top provider of website addresses and hosting, offers a tool to completely rebuild a website to make it mobile-friendly and charges $1 monthly for the service. 
    • Go to a service like dudamobile for a more robust, yet smaller version of a website, starting at $5 per month.
    • Get in touch with a local Web developer to farm out the work so that the mobile-friendly website site will look more like the original site.

    With Google taking the lead in placing more importance on mobile in its ranking algorithm, the other search engines will likely follow. Businesses will now need to pay close attention to their websites' ability to elegantly deliver information to people over any device.

    "Google has always been about relevancy, and content is king," explained Duda CEO Itai Sadan in a Business Insider report"But that's changing. Yes, they're saying content is still extremely important, but user experience is just as important. It's not sufficient to have all the right content — if people come to your site and the content is there but it's not readable, that's not good."

    There are a number of tools to help small businesses and nonprofits cost-effectively develop a website that provides relevant content, is mobile-friendly, and easily updated. We will cover that topic in an upcoming blog.


    The Need for Speed

    By Larry Velez, Sinu founder and CTO

    I have noticed that people have incredibly low tolerance for delays in any solutions they use today, and this impatience seems to increase the younger you are.

    For example, if a website is does not load almost immediately, you’ve lost that visitor. Email is often bypassed for a text or another app that loads faster and connects them faster. According to a study by the Pew Research Center, the length of the most popular You Tube videos was 2 minutes and 1 second, and if a video doesn’t load fast enough, they are off to the next thing…maybe even opting for using another screen simultaneously.

    There may be some negative effects to all this, but I think one thing is going to hold true: solutions that don’t respond quickly will be abandoned no matter how well they work, how many features they have, or how complex they are. Less agile solutions in a workplace are at risk of being replaced by employees (whether authorized by their employer or not) for other faster, and often less stable solutions. Business owners are increasingly challenged to provide employees access to the information they need at the speed they are used to outside the workplace while protecting systems and data.
    Selecting technology that provides both speed and stability is tricky. While it’s true that outdated, complex systems can be bottlenecks for employee productivity, having a workforce that uses different solutions and accessing valuable data in a multitude of ways in often inefficient and risky.

    When considering the quality of business solutions, it is important to consider the speed of using the solution, speed to usability (how much training is needed to get going) and speed to access. However, speed alone is not the only criteria that should be considered, equally important are a solution's features, compatibility with your legacy data and current technology, and viability of the company providing the solution. Another consideration is the impact in your sector. For instance, solutions with a large market share in your industry usually have several advantages: there are more people who are familiar with the solutions; it's often easier to convince other companies to integrate with them; and it can be easier to find training materials and support for your employees. However, the larger market leaders can often command a premium for their product and may be slower to adapt to changing customer demands than start-ups that may be trying to gain market share in the sector.

    It is also important to consider your culture and how agile your employees need the solutions to be in order to get the most productivity from your team. How quickly will the solution be adopted, how quickly can it be tested, accessed, and how flexible are the access points are all considerations. Is as easy as an iPhone/iPad app and a login to get going? If so, your employees will feel familiar with the solution and adopt it more quickly.

    Adriaan van Wyk, CEO of K2 and a contributing writer for Entrepreneur, summarizes this point well: “…The key is to understand the ‘speed of your people’ and to build on that energy by picking tools, technologies and internal controls that allow employees to focus on solving problems.”
    For small businesses and nonprofits it is often challenging to dedicate the time and resources to try to find and support the speedy solutions that employees want. At Sinu, we understand that our customers’ solutions must reflect their culture and the “speed of their people.” That’s why we continually assess new technologies and add the IT services our customers need to stay competitive with the internal controls to minimize risk. We have been doing it for 10 years and have seen many changes in technology… it is exciting to anticipate what will drive enterprise solutions in the next decade.


    Using Big Data to Predict the Future

    Microsoft recently announced that it is using big data to try to predict traffic jams up to an hour before they happen. The plan is to use Microsoft's expansive cloud computing capabilities to store and crunch data from multiple sources in "real time."

    "The Traffic Prediction Project uses data available by social networks, department of transportation, and data that the users create themselves while they move around the city," Juliana Salles of Microsoft Research said in a promotional video.

    According to Peter Keen of Digital Traffic Systems in an interview with Marketplace Tech, those data points aren't new and neither is work to predict traffic jams. 

    "It is being done now. It can always be done better," Keen says, because right now prediction models depend on past traffic information.

    "You have historical trends of what the volume's going to be at a given day of the week, at a given time of day," says Keen, which can help make predictions that are accurate much of the time, especially about typical traffic patterns on major passageways.

    Keen says predictions can be better if both past and current data is combined. But such data is often in multiple formats and multiple databases, and hard to combine.

    That is exactly what the Traffic Prediction Project is trying to overcome. Microsoft, in collaboration with researchers at a university in Brazil, is studying whether it's possible to predict traffic congestion 15 minutes to an hour before it happens. Microsoft will be putting its Azure cloud-computing platform to the test for the project because of the immense processing power needed to crunch multiple terabytes of dataincluding historical traffic numbers, data from transport departments, road cameras, and Microsoft’s Bing traffic maps – and even drivers’ social networks – to help foresee traffic jams.

    Beyond the convenience of knowing when the George Washington will back up before you are actually stuck on it, the implications of predicting human behavior using big data for small business are enormous. What if you could combine what your customers historically purchase during a certain month with real-time data about what they are purchasing right now and what they are saying about what they want on social media, so you can give them what they will want tomorrow? What if you could predict the performance of your employees using big data? If this Microsoft project works (it already reports 80% accuracy), and it can be delivered to small business cost effectively, the question is not if, but when historical and real-time data can be used to help small businesses predict the future.