Come April 21st, Google is integrating mobile-friendliness into its algorithm as a ranking signal.
Well, then. That sounds pretty exciting. But why is Google doing this now?
Google wants to make these changes so that users have a better experience when they search for things–whether that’s a local store that sells the hardware they need or a quick answer to “What is the capital of Canada?” (It’s Ottawa.) This is because so many people are using mobile devices now. And guess what? They get really frustrated if the top search results come from sites that can’t display properly on their tablet or smartphone. Have you ever searched on your phone and found a site that ended up just loading slowly and after you waited for so long, the text was too small to read? We all have. But this is primarily what Google is aiming to fix.
However, they also want to make money from it (of course). Because it’s not just mobile-friendly websites that’ll show up in search results–it’s also apps. As you probably know, Google Play is where Google makes money from app sales. By ranking these mobile-friendly sites alongside apps, Google can then stay in the sales game, especially when their competitors (Hulu, Amazon, etc) are still going strong.
What does this mean for you? It means that if you haven’t made sure that your site has a mobile-responsive design, it could take a hit in ratings.
So how can you make sure you’re adequately prepared for the upcoming changes? Below, we list a few suggestions that should get you on the right track.
Use meta name=”viewport” to tell the browser how to adjust the screen.
This might not be something you know how to do, but a web developer knows what this means. This code allows the same HTML code to be served on the same URL to each device (mobile, tablet, desktop), but the catch is that it will render the layout differently based on screen size of the device accessing the site. It’s the bit of code that makes the site “responsive”.
What does that mean in plain English? By adding this tag into the coding in your website, you’re telling the browser to adjust the screen based on the type of device accessing it, and you’ll be in Google’s good graces come April 21st.
A quick way to do this is to use “Fetch as Google” function in Webmaster tools. Check Google’s guide here for more detailed information and a walk-through on using this tool.
If you have no idea what Webmaster tools is, talk to your developer or learn more about how it works here.
If you have WordPress, download a responsive theme.
This might sound like a chore, but trust us, it isn’t as bad as you think. You’ll actually have a much better-looking site if you make sure that everything is responsive and clean, and these changes generally are not difficult to make, and they don’t take up much of your time either.
If you’re unsure whether your current WordPress theme is mobile-friendly, first, determine which kind of WordPress site you have:
Did you sign up for a free blog on WordPress.com? If so, WordPress automatically includes mobile-friendly themes. You’re good to go.
Did you install software on your own self-hosted site? (Using WordPress.org.) If so, you’ll have to check to ensure your theme is responsive. Not all themes are.
- First, go into your Admin panel.
- Go to Appearance > Themes.
- Usually you’ll see options for mobile devices here. if you don’t, check to see if you’ve updated to the most recent version of the theme. If your theme is up to date and you’re still not seeing mobile options, you may have to download a new theme. Browse themes with the “responsive layout” tag.
- Check Google’s guide here for more detailed information, as well as links to WordPress resources.
If you use Blogger, then you don’t have to worry.
Blogger is operated by Google, so all the themes are already equipped with mobile-friendly options. If your theme isn’t mobile friendly yet, all you have to do is:
- Go into your layout tab.
- Select the gear icon under the “mobile” section.
- Choose the way you want your mobile layout to look.
If you’re still having problems, Google has a tutorial with photos and more detailed instructions here.
Done all of that? Now do a final check to see if your site is mobile friendly.
After you’ve made sure your site can respond to mobile browsers and the theme is easily readable and loadable by these devices, you can check to see if your site is indeed mobile-friendly using Google’s very own tool–and it’s completely free! It only takes a few minutes of your time and it’s incredibly simple to use–just enter the URL of the site you want to check and press the “analyze” button.
If you get results that tell you your site isn’t exactly up to snuff, don’t worry. It’ll show you a mockup of how your site will appear on mobile screens so you can see just how much work needs to be done. There will also be a checklist of things you need to improve. You can then keep notes for your developer or attempt to fix them on your own, if you’re up to the challenge. (We would not recommend this if you are not familiar with coding. But if you have a WordPress or Blogger site as mentioned above, then you’ll have a much easier time with it.)
Remember, you have until April 21st, 2015 to get your site mobile-ready. Don’t wait until the last minute! Best of luck to you!
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