Google Algorithm Update: Mobile-Friendly Required by 4/21/2015

eblast_googleGoogle recently announced that their next algorithm update will take into consideration the mobile-friendliness of a site within search engine rankings. This means if you have a site that is not “friendly” to mobile devices, then you will likely be penalized and appear lower within search results. The new “mobile-friendly” requirement and ranking signal update to the Google algorithm is scheduled for April 21, 2015, so time is running out to get your website optimized.

Although the update may seem harsh for sites that have not taken the time to optimize for mobile viewing, we commend Google for giving forewarning prior to releasing this update. Typically, Google implements new updates and website rankings are at the search engine’s mercy.

How Important is Mobile Optimization?
This time, Google is placing strong emphasis on mobile-friendly websites because they recognize that the majority of search traffic is now via mobile devices. According to an article from ClickZ from January 7, 2015, “Traffic to the two major U.S. search engines (Google & Bing) shows that a substantial proportion of their traffic comes from mobile devices. For Google, mobile comprised almost half of all traffic from June to November 2014, with 52 percent coming from desktops and 48 percent from mobile. For Bing, the portion of mobile Web visits is smaller, accounting for roughly 33 percent of visits against 67 percent from desktop.”

Google Mobile Traffic

Google Cares…About Mobile
Google cares most about the user, not the website owners, so they want to make it is as easy as possible for the average searcher to find relevant, high-quality search results regardless of what device they are using (desktop, tablet, or smart phone). According to Google’s blog post on February 26, 2015, “As more people use mobile devices to access the Internet, our algorithms have to adapt to these usage patterns. In the past, we’ve made updates to ensure a site is configured properly and viewable on modern devices. We’ve made it easier for users to find mobile-friendly web pages and we’ve introduced App Indexing to surface useful content from apps.”

The truth of the matter is, anyone who has not updated their site to be mobile-friendly, is doing their site and their online audience a disservice. This update may just be the last push brands need to take the dive into mobile.

How to Make Your Website Mobile-Friendly
Unfortunately, upgrading your site to mobile may be more painful for some website owners than others. Depending on how your original site was built, companies without mobile compatibility have several options: 1. Rebuild your site on a responsive WordPress pre-built theme, 2. Rebuild your site with a custom responsive WordPress theme, 3. Build a mobile version of your site for tablet and smartphones (two orientations: vertical and horizontal), 4. Add responsive functionality to your existing site by adding viewport tagging or a responsive pre-built plugin (WPtouch is one WordPress mobile plugin option).

How to Check if Your Site is Mobile-Friendly
If you’re not sure if your website is mobile-friendly, here is a great tool that Google has provided for you:

Once you run a “mobile-friendly test” within the Google Webmasters’ Tools program, you will either get a report that says: “Awesome! This page is mobile-friendly.” in green text, or a report that says: “Not mobile-friendly.” in red text. If you get the error report, Google will provide links and resources for what to do to fix those errors.

Mobile Friendly Website

Common Errors to Look For On Your Website
From what we’ve seen thus far, here are a few common errors to look out for on your site:
–       Make sure your font size for the mobile version is legible
–       Check if your content is wider than the screen (like your slider or large home page image)
–       Look to see if your links are too close together
–       Upgrade your WordPress version, theme version, and plugins (ask a developer for help, if you’re not sure how to do this properly)
–       Fix resource links
–       Ensure there is no Flash (for example: old blog posts may contain the original YouTube embed code that used Flash to embed videos, you will need to find and replace those links)

Try to fix the common errors first and see if you pass the test by running the Webmasters’ Mobile-Friendly Test again. If you get a green response, then your site is probably okay.

Dig Deeper for Even More Errors On Your Website
If you’re still seeing errors, or want to go even deeper, login to your Google Webmasters account using your Google Analytics login. Then, click on your website link. Go to the sidebar and click on Search Traffic to access the drop down menu. Then, click on Mobile Usability. Once you are on that page, scroll down to the row of errors listed under Usability error. Each set of type in each row will drive you to details regarding that error. Once you go to each Usability error page, you will be given a set of page links within your site so you know what pages need to be fixed and why. If you are unclear why each page is receiving an error, there will be a blue Learn more link at the top of each page with details for that page’s particular error.

Here is a link to access your Google Webmasters account: Google Webmaster Tools.

If you need help, talk to your developer or IT resource and share this article. It will have links and details they need to help you figure what the problem is and how to solve it. Remember, the deadline to update your site for mobile-friendly ranking signal is April 21, 2015.

As always, Incitrio Branding & Marketing Agency is here to help. Our team is standing by to support our clients and friends. Feel free to give us a call or shoot us an email if you need help. Phone: 858-523-1822, Email: Good luck!

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