March 9, 2015
They’ve been warning us for a while, but Google have finally announced that mobile-friendliness will be added as a ranking signal next month:
“Starting April 21, we will be expanding our use of mobile-friendliness as a ranking signal. This change will affect mobile searches in all languages worldwide and will have a significant impact in our search results”
The fact they use the word significant is, well, significant. You don’t often see them give algorithm tweak announcements this kind of adjective emphasis. Normally, they’ll use vague phrases like “potential impact” or “quality improvements” or “Matt Cutts suggests”. So you can be sure that the forthcoming changes are going to be the source of panic attacks in webmasters the world over and late night Skypes for SEOs everywhere (yeah, thanks a lot Google).
Meanwhile, responsive WordPress theme designers will be rubbing their beards with glee at the prospect and adding more Threadless t-shirts to their wishlist.
So let’s assume for a moment that you have spent the last two years watching LOL cat videos on Facebook instead of making your website mobile friendly. Let’s also assume that your site has a scarlet letter displayed across it in the SERPs instead of the wanky desirable mobile-friendly banner issued by Google.
What can you do now to ward off the Google ranking oblivion heading your way? In the words of Douglas Adams: DON’T PANIC.
Here’s a check list to start with:
- Log out of Facebook. I mean it.
- View your site on various mobile devices and try not to cry.
- Don’t have multiple devices? That’s ok, QuirkTools have .
- Check your site against Google’s mobile friendly test tool.
- Pull yourself out of the foetal position and take a deep breath. You can fix this!
- If your site is built on a popular CMS, Google will likely have a technical guide on their Developers site that can help guide you and/or your designer make your site more mobile friendly. For example, check out Google’s Technical Guide for WordPress users.
- Browse the theme library of your CMS for a recent responsive design / mobile friendly theme that doesn’t make your wallet flinch or make you want to gouge your eyes out. This is a lot trickier than it sounds.
- Log out of Facebook dammit!
- Back up your current site and related databases.
- Make sure you choose a theme that uses largish font that can be viewed easily on the smallest of iPhones. You know, for those of us who can’t afford an iPhone 6.
- Check all your favorite plugins to make sure they are mobile-friendly. You’d be surprised how many of them look great in IE 10 but entirely screw up how your site appears in Safari. Uninstall or replace those with plugins that don’t impact your site’s appearance.
- Set your mobile viewport. Yeah, I’ve got no idea what this means either.
- Make sure that your text links are separated by at least one line of text between each. Being too close together make them difficult to click on with a mobile device.
- Underline your links and highlight them using a different color to your main text. But please don’t use hipster grey. That’s just the color of sadness.
If you’ve verified your site in Google Webmaster Tools (of course you have!), you can check your site’s Page Speed using the Page Speed Insights tool. Or you can use Google’s stand-alone version.
- Make any page speed tweaks suggested by Google.
- In my experience, your site should now look mostly normal across various devices, apart from a glitch that shoves your header 5cm to the right on Google Chrome for Android no matter what the heck you try. Thankfully no-one uses that browser.
- Check your site against Google’s mobile friendly test tool again.
- Repeat, Rinse, Repeat until you can live with the outcome of the test.
- Log back into Facebook. Cute cat videos await!
Article by Kalena Jordan, one of the first search engine optimization experts in Australia, who is well known and respected in the industry, particularly in the U.S. As well as running a daily Search Engine Advice Column, Kalena manages Search Engine College - an online training institution offering instructor-led short courses and downloadable self-study courses in search engine optimization and other search engine marketing subjects. Visit Her Google+ Profile