It’s almost here – soon Google will officially be counting ‘mobile friendly’ as a ranking factor. Google’s new Mobile Friendly Algorithm is scheduled for release on April 21, 2015. What does this mean? It means that if your site is not mobile friendly, providing the best possible user experience for your visitors on mobile devices, you may see your site fall in the search rankings. Here’s what you need to know and check right now before the algorithm is released.*
1. Check Google’s mobile friendly testing tool. Quick and easy, this tool analyzes a URL and indicates if it has a mobile-friendly design. You see the results instantly.
Note that this tool looks at an individual page; it is not checking your entire site. It is a good place to start though. For a great resource on effective mobile sites, check out Google’s Principles of Site Design. This research study examined how users interact with mobile sites in order to inform site owners and webmasters what makes a good mobile site. Even for non-developers, this gives a good overview of how your site should work on mobile. For example, here is what it says about Home page and site navigation:
2. Look in Google Webmaster Tools for messages pertaining to mobile usability. (Note: if your site is not in Google Webmaster Tools, you’ll need to add it and verify that you are an administrator of the site). In anticipation of the new algorithm, Google started posting messages in Google Webmaster Tools informing site owners that their site has mobile usability issues. If you see this message, make sure your web developer has access to see what needs to be fixed.
The message is clear and specific, and links to the Mobile Usability reports (found under Search Reports) that note the specific issues that need to be addressed. So, the good news is, Google lets us know exactly what needs to be fixed to make the site mobile friendly. In the Mobile Usability reports, you can drill down to the specific pages that have issues. Here is an example of a Mobile Usability report that shows usability errors. All of these are errors that can be fixed by the developer of your site.
Once you take action to fix the errors, you should see the number of errors start to decrease. Note that this won’t happen immediately – Google seems to update the data in these reports every few days or so. For the complete list of errors that Google will report on, please refer to the Google Webmaster Tools help forum on mobile usability.
3. After you use the mobile friendly testing tool and take action on mobile usability errors in Google Webmaster Tools, what’s next? Search for your site in Google (on your phone) and look for the mobile friendly label. When I search for “digital marketing agencies Chicago” and Launch Digital Marketing comes up, I see the mobile friendly label.
The most important thing to remember is that Google doesn’t release these algorithms to punish site owners – it’s to ensure that users have the best search experiences possible. And isn’t that what we all want? We hope you use the tools outlined here to make your site even better and more user friendly. Good luck!
*If we built your site, no need to worry. All of the websites Launch Digital Marketing builds are responsive, meaning they respond to the device your visitor is using – desktop, mobile or tablet – and provide the best user experience on that device.