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Mobile Friendliness Now a Google Ranking Signal

Photo Credit: Luca Mascaro via flickr

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!

About the author


Kalena Jordan

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
- 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


Click here to post a comment
  • Me me me! 2 years of watching cats and dogs videos and now have to get back to work? Thanks, Google!it’s hard to logout from Facebook but with your great motivational speech I will make it happen!

  • Thanks for the update ( mobile-friendliness as a ranking signal)..it will help website owners to improve their website search presence in terms of device oriented search

  • hello,

    A very informative update. Now responsive website design will play an important role for online presence.

  • Great article. It will help get my site running even better with your tips.

    Of course some of the language Google uses is not easy to understand, but I will try my best.

    Did the Mobile Friendly test and passed.


  • It’s about time mobile usage will play a part in the rankings. Thanks for sharing.

  • We have several clients using a separate mobile website, one that is dummed down to the very basics to prompt a click-to-call.

    All our websites are in WordPress, the mobile site is PHP based, and Google is showing all our sites as being ‘not mobile friendly’ yet it shows a perfect preview of our mobile-only site. The mobile version is triggered by a mobile-detect plugin which apparently, isn’t mobile friendly. Seems odd.

    Any advice for my situation?

    • Thanks for the feedback guys, glad you found it useful. @Dante – I think the web is moving past mobile-only sites now that the technology exists to standardize user experience using responsive design etc. I would seriously consider ditching the mobile versions and the mobile sniffer plugin and standardizing your site to display consistently across all devices. Yes, it will be work but if you do it now, you’ll be ahead of the game and should recover quickly.

  • What if you don’t want your site to be mobile friendly? I cannot imagine my membership site with over5 55 videos, hundreds of downloadable e-books, graphics etc. would ever be an enjoyable experience for anyone. Including ME, the instructor trying to visualize all that info on a teeny tiny phone viewport. Best viewed on the biggest screen you can get ON full screen.

  • Interesting article, Mobile friendly websites are definitely affect rankings. Well suggested ways to increase your website rankings. Thank you

  • Yes you are right Kalena. Now we should make our website mobile friendly if we want to rank. Now Google give the high preference to the mobile friendly website. Thanks for sharing a great article and good information about the mobile friendly sites.

  • Hey, your tips are very informative and show the importance of responsive sites.

    I remember what Jeffrey Veen said “Day by day, the number of devices, platforms, and browsers that need to work with your site grows. Responsive web design represents a fundamental shift in how we’ll build websites for the decade to come.”

    It is better now to change our ‘old’ preference site into a responsive site.

  • A lot of results will change in about a month. Lets say how deep will be the google’s difference mobile policy.

  • Thank you for the explanation, I am happy that my website has passed the test of mobile friendly