In just a few days, on April 21st to be precise, Google is going to significantly alter their ranking algorithm based on how mobile friendly your site is. Having a proper mobile site has probably been a ranking factor for a while already, now it will be a "major" factor, positive or negative.
Having a proper mobile site has probably been a ranking factor for a while already, now it will be a "major" factor, positive or negative. This will have significant impact search engine rankings of a lot of websites. This is extremely important because Google does not always mention updates to the algorithm, like with all the iterations of Panda and Penguin. This change is expected to be as big if not bigger than Hummingbird, which significantly overhauled Google's algorithm.
What this means for you is simply: how does your website respond when accessed on a mobile platform? And by mobile, this just does not mean your smartphone, but also tablets and smaller screen laptops, like a Chromebook.
This article is going to cover how to test your site to see if it is mobile ready, what some of the common problems that you can encounter are, and next steps.
How To Test Your Website For Mobile-Responsiveness
Whether your site is 2 years old, just redesigned or in the process of being built, start with testing it. While it might be a scary thought that your new or almost new site will need to go back to the drawing board, it is better than getting hit by a Google penalty.
To test your site, you can go to https://www.google.com/webmasters/tools/mobile-friendly/. Also, if you are verified with Google Webmaster Tools (which you totally should be), you can access it from there, see below.
Another great tool is http://validator.w3.org/mobile/, which unlike Google's tool, won't redirect itself if you have a separate mobile site. For example, if your site is www.myurl.com and the mobile version is m.myurl.com, you will need to enter in the later address to test the mobile site, otherwise it will test your desktop version.
I ran our website through the test. We built it mobile-responsive and that is the test result you want to see "Awesome! This page is mobile-friendly". But if you look closer there are a few issues on the page.
The tool asks if the screenshot of your site looks correct, which it is not, since my site is not a blank screen. If you look towards the top it says that 12 resources are blocked.
Those blocked resources are what are preventing Google, not a user, from accessing all parts of your site.
This is most likely related to your robots.txt settings, which if you want to allow Google to see everything, you will need to change it. If you have a WordPress site these resources were blocked in the robots.txt file as a security precaution.
If your site is on managed WordPress hosting, like Flywheel, then it is probably safe to remove. If you are not sure bring it up with your webmaster.
After unblocking those resources, the only other change you might want to make is to improve your site speed, which you can check through gtmetrix.com.
Some common ways to increase speed are to add a CDN (Content Delivery Network), reduce image sizes, minimize Http requests etc. Again, talk to your webmaster about what you can do.
Uh, My Site Needs Some Help
If you get the test outcome on the left, Google is pretty much telling you to go hire a web designer, and fast.
Also, a result like this means that most of your users are hitting the back button faster than they got to your site.
Back in July of last year, Google held a hangout on common SEO mistakes, you can see my summary of it here. A major part of this hangout was common mistakes in mobile sites, specifically, these issues on the left.
The Google hangout made the point that the UX (user experience) is just as if not more important then the GoogleBot experience for a while now.
A site like this requires the user to pinch to zoom in, scroll left and right to see all the content, probably has Flash video or other elements that are not working, and the user will need to tap extremely carefully to clickthrough on the correct link.
How Do I Fix My Site?
Now how to go about fixing your site is a little bit more complicated. If you got the "Awesome" result, then you should check your Webmaster tools account to see if there are a few pages that have issues (I had one). Also, changing your robots.txt file might be necessary like mine.
However, if you got the above result, your site was built without mobile in mind and you have a few options as how to proceed
- Create a brand new website using a responsive design
- Create a mobile-only site, i.e. m.yoururl.com
- Try to fix all the issues on your current site to make it mobile friendly
Of the above 3 choices, only the first makes sense. A separate mobile site means you will need to update information in two different places, plus make sure each mobile page is linked properly to the main site equivalent. As for fixing the current site, the effort involved in changing it would be more than making a new site.
Creating a brand new website with a responsive theme, a CMS (like WordPress or HubSpot COS), that is easy to use no matter which device you are on is the way to go.