Your website has mobile issues? It might not have been a big issue in the past, but it soon will be!

Happy lady with smartphoneHave you received an email from Google to say that your site has mobile usability issues? Or maybe another web development company has tried to shake you up by claiming your site isn’t mobile friendly. They may be right, but whereas in the past it might not have been absolutely essential… it’s about to become a real problem if your site doesn’t work well on mobile devices.

Here’s why…

Back in February 2015 Google announced via their blog that they would be expanding the use of mobile friendliness as a ranking signal. Aside from the fact that they pretty much ‘own’ search, and can therefore choose how to rank what, it’s actually a sensible move. Google have become the market leader in search because they have always focused on providing the most appropriate search results in a very timely fashion for any particular search term. So, with more and more searches taking place on mobile devices, it’s logical that they will want to provide mobile searchers with results that not only give them the content they are looking for, but which also appear on websites that load quickly and are adapted to the device they are using. This means sites need to be properly configured to deliver content in the right manner to mobile users.

This will start from April 21st, and is not a hoax! Your site will lose ranking position for mobile searches after that date if it is not mobile friendly.

Caveat : If you’re one of the few website owners where all (or the vast majority) of your visitors are desktop users, then you may not need to worry as this the changes are reported to be only affecting mobile search. You can check your Google Analytics (or other site stats) reports to determine how much of your traffic comes from mobile users.

Screenshot showing results of the Google Mobile-Friendly Website toolChecking if your site is mobile friendly

Not surprisingly, Google have a tool to allow you to check whether it sees your site as mobile friendly. Check your site out now – go on – it only takes a minute!

How did you do?

Anything less than ‘Awesome’ and you need to do something.

What sort of things make websites non-mobile-friendly?

When you have visited websites on your smartphone what do you dislike?

Content that you cannot read because the text is too small?

Text that you need to scroll horizontally to read?

Are the links so close together that it’s difficult clicking the one you want?

It’s likely that the same things you dislike are what Google is looking for too.

How do I make my site mobile friendly?

You have a number of options.

1. If you are using a popular content management system, such as WordPress, Drupal or Joomla, you can change to a responsive theme. This will ensure that the presentation of your content adapts automatically to different devices. The advantage of this is that you only need to maintain one copy of your content. The disadvantage is that you’ll have no control over how the mobile version looks (unless you’re happy to customise the code a bit);

2. Create a separate version of your site just for mobile devices and then place something in your site code to detect the device size and send your visitors to the mobile version of the site. The advantage of this method is that you can design the mobile version to look as you want and to vary the content (i.e. show mobile users a cut-down version). The disadvantage is the time taken to maintain 2 versions of your site AND the potential issues that search engines might have indexing 2 versions of essential the same page;

3. Use a plugin, or other 3rd party extension, such as WP-touch for WordPress sites to handle things for you. These are ok, but don’t always offer the flexibility of other solutions;

4. Adapt your website using html and css changes to manually build mobile responsiveness into your website. The advantage here is that you can pretty much adapt your site to be viewed however you like on mobile devices, but the downside is that you’ll need knowledge of html and css to do it;

What Next?

If you have found that your site isn’t mobile friendly, then get in touch with us or your own web developer as soon as you can to discuss the options. It does need to be done if you want to attract mobile traffic, but it doesn’t need to be prohibitively expensive.

photo credit: It works! via photopin (license)

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