Google and Mobile-Friendly
Google has announced that, starting April 17, they will include whether a site is “mobile-friendly” as a criteria for position in search results. This means that starting on that date, if they don’t think your site is mobile-friendly, expect your position in search rankings to change. Significantly.
Why are they doing this? To meet the demands of their own customers, searchers. An increasing number of searches are performed from cellphones, and Google wants to deliver search results that these customers can use easily. In that sense, this change is in your interest as well–your customers, increasingly, use cellphones to search, so you need to have a site that’s easy for them to use from a cellphone.
What is Mobile-Friendly?
Happily, Google doesn’t leave any doubt what they mean by mobile-friendly. They’ve provided us a test tool that we can use, for free, to see whether a site is mobile-friendly. Just give the link a click, insert your URL, and Google will tell you–yes or no–and even show you a picture of what your site looks like on a cell phone.
Here’s a sample of the sort of result you can expect, for a test of this site:
How Can I Make My Site Mobile-Friendly?
You don’t want to be out in the cold on April 17, although you can expect Google to phase in the penalty over time–which is to say, if you can’t make it by the 17th, you can avoid the worst of the damage by acting as quickly as you can.
If you’ve used WordPress for your site, you’re in better shape. If you site uses one of the popular themes, most of them are already mobile-friendly, so when you used the Google’s mobile-friendly tool you received the happy news that your site is already mobile-friendly. If you have a WordPress site that doesn’t use a mobile-friendly theme, you could add mobile-friendly code to your theme, potentially at some cost and taking some time, or you could have your site changed to use a mobile-friendly theme. The latter approach is likely to be the best approach for most small businesses.
If you’re using one of the older site generators such as Joomla, you’re not out of luck. Check with the developers of your tools. Joomla, in particular, has some plugins that can help you achieve responsive design with a Joomla site. There’s a free ebook about getting a Joomla site to be responsive.
If you have a static HTML site, or an HTML site with a lot of code, you’ll need to add code to the site to sense the type of device that’s being used to view it, and adapt the display to the size of the device. That’s a significant amount of work, and of course you’ll need to be ready to change that code as the devices used evolve over time. But if you have your own Web programming staff, this may be a practical approach for you. You might also decide that perhaps it’s time to get away from the HTML approach and join the WordPress bandwagon. I took that step a while ago with my own site, so I’ll be relaxed on April 17.
The Bottom Line
Become mobile-friendly. Now. Or lose much of your Google search traffic.