LOS ANGELES — If your website traffic plummets suddenly Tuesday, you can blame it on "Mobilegeddon."
Google, which dominates online search, is launching an algorithm to favor sites that are "mobile-friendly." This means that people who use Google to search on their smartphone may not find many of their favorite sites at the top of the rankings. Sites that haven't updated could find themselves ranked way lower, which in turn could mean a huge loss of business.
Search giant Google, which comScore Media Metrix estimates has a 65% market share of U.S. Internet searches, wants sites to load quickly and be easy to navigate on a mobile phone.
Google is doing this because it wants consumers to "find content that's not only relevant and timely, but also easy to read and interact with on smaller mobile screens," Google said in a statement.
The update will not affect results from desktop searches.
Google's last big algorithm update, code-named Panda, impacted "11% of all search results," says Danny Sullivan, the editor of the SearchEngineLand website. "It was a big shake-up, and this one could be even more dramatic."
A website ranked No. 1 or No. 2 in a search query could hypothetically fall to ninth or 10th place, causing a loss of thousands of dollars in potential business, says independent analyst Greg Sterling.
In 2012, Demand Media posted a $6.4 million loss in an earnings report, and blamed the loss on changes to Google's Panda update, which removed the firm from top spots
Just over half of all searches done on Google are now performed through mobile devices, says Sullivan, a number that continues to grow, as more folks transition to spending more and more time on smartphones
(Sullivan's website came up with the term "Mobilegeddon" in March, a play on a recent Los Angeles mini-crisis called "Carmeggedon," when freeways were closed for several weekends.
Worried about your website? Google has a "Mobile-Friendly" test page in its developer section. Just type in the URL and see if it passes. The URL: https://www.google.com/webmasters/tools/mobile-friendly/.
USA TODAY tested many top brands with the tool Monday, and came up with many that passed the test — and many that didn't. Companies that need to update their sites quickly included restaurant chains California Pizza Kitchen and Coco's, fashion icon Versace, candy manufacturer Sees and European airline Ryanair, according to Google.
Website TechCrunch found that 44% of the Fortune 500 companies failed the mobile friendly test.
Overall, "as many as 40% of top websites are not currently mobile-friendly," says Sterling. "There's a big category of people who have completely ignored mobile."
Recommendation: Call your webmaster and have him perform a mobile-remodel on your website. The one-time cost is completely worth it.
Reprinted courtesy of USATODAY ONLINE