Long Island companies are hustling to update their websites before a change in Google's search engine ranking formula that some have dubbed "mobilegeddon."
In February, a webmaster for the dominant search engine disclosed in a blog post that on April 21 Google would increase the weight its algorithm attaches to a website's "mobile friendliness" and that the change would have a "significant impact."
The implication? Websites deemed unfriendly to smartphones and tablets would see their search positions fall. For businesses that could mean dollars and cents if customers land on the websites of rivals.
"They will get a rude awakening if they count on ranking in their search results," said Andrew Ruditser, co-owner of Farmingdale-based MaxBurst Inc., a website design and digital marketing company. "A lot of businesses depend on their rankings to get new clients."
Search has been migrating to mobile platforms. Researcher comScore found that in the final quarter of 2014, U.S. desktop search declined by 1 percent, while search with smartphones increased 17 percent and with tablets, 28 percent.
Stephen Baldwin (not the Long Island actor), editor-in-chief at Didit.com, a marketing communications firm based in Mineola, has been warning of "mobilegeddon" and trying to get the word out by checking company URLs on Google's "mobile-friendly test" page, google.com/webmasters/tools/ mobile-friendly.
Didit.com's analysis found that about 25 percent of the home pages of the giant publicly traded companies in the Standard & Poor's 100 failed Google's test, including media titan Walt Disney Co.
While the Disney home page looks fine on a desktop computer, Google's test found that the text was too small, the links were squashed together and the content was wider than the screen on mobile devices.
When Didit tested Long Island's largest publicly traded companies, more than half flunked, including tech-savvy companies such as Port Washington-based Systemax Inc. A Systemax spokeswoman said the company would decline direct comment, but noted that its consumer and business-to-business websites were optimized for mobile.
Ruditser said MaxBurst, with 18 employees, is "swamped" by businesses seeking to redesign their websites.
"I get calls and emails daily from people all over seeking to do an audit of their website," he said. "I tell them now it's too late" to make the April 21 deadline. He said such projects, even for a simple website, typically run six to eight weeks with a cost starting at $5,000.
Google's ranking is important because the Mountain View, California, company dominates Internet search in the United States. In January, Google led desktop search with a 64.4 percent share, according to online researcher comScore. In March, Google held 84.1 percent of the U.S. mobile and tablet search market, according to StatCounter Global Stats.
Paul Trapani, whose PJT Consulting Ltd. business is based at the Launchpad Mineola business accelerator, said that businesses ignore Google's guidelines at their own peril.
"I think it's crucial for everyone," he said. "People are searching your name, and you want to come up. It's crucial for government, it's crucial for tech companies. You don't want a site that looks like it won't work with people's iPhones."