If you work in, or take a keen interest in, digital marketing and all things SERPS, then you will have most likely heard about Google’s ‘Mobile First’ core ranking algorithmic update.

The explanation for this update can be found on this November 4th 2016 article on the Google Webmasters blog.


As mobile device searches now outweigh desktop searches both here in the UK and in most places worldwide, Google took the decision to change its SERPS ranking results to put mobile users first.

What did this mean? We won’t go into all the SEO implications as that’s for another article. However in its simplest terms, if you had a great desktop website, yet the mobile version of your site was lacking, then you will now in all likelihood lose some of the organic ranking positions you enjoyed on desktop or tablet devices.

For those of you who had an excellent mobile experience for the user then you would/should see improvements in rankings (theoretically) across all devices as a result of this core algorithm change.

So what’s this got to do with AdWords? Well nothing directly. That update was focused on organic search results. However over the last few days we have seen strange things happening to AdWords statistics that led us into a very insightful conversation with Google. Hence the reason for this quickly thrown together article.

For a couple of large scale ecommerce clients we began to see a drop in CTR and rises in CPC’s. I know what you’re thinking. It’s Christmas. These things will happen with increased competition. We did think of that! We analysed all key data using our proprietary systems and through that investigation we came to the conclusion that quality scores for these two clients had dropped as an average.

Why? Nothing major had changed? No big shifts in ad creative, keywords or landing pages? So what could be behind this?

Well Google fed back something rather interesting when we quizzed them on it. A representative told us that Google are in the early stages of rolling out a mobile first algorithm update on AdWords now. As a result some of the same penalties you could receive on organic listings if your website was not optimised for mobile are now filtering into AdWords quality score rankings algorithm. They admitted they didn’t know much about it themselves; however when we ran tests of the two clients in question we did find that both suffered from mobile device issues.

One had an issue with load time for their mobile version of the website. The other has not got a mobile optimised website (something they’re remedying as we speak).

So yes – There was a direct correlation between the drop in quality scores and/or an impact in visibility on desktop devices and the ecommerce client’s website performance on mobile devices.

This means that if your website is slow on mobile devices or is not mobile optimised then based on what we have seen, and it continues moving that way, it’s reasonable to expect to see quality score penalties across your whole AdWords account!

At this stage we cannot comment more, but going on past experience with Google changes being rolled out we are sure that this will be something that appears on a lot more radars soon.

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