Thanks to Google, A Mobile-Friendly Website Is Now Mandatory

mobile friendly websiteWell, no one’s holding a gun to your head, but you should know that another upcoming change to the Google algorithm, on April 21, 2015, will make having a mobile-friendly website more important than ever.

Google has already said that this change will be “significant,” and it’s sent the Internet aflutter with posts on how to prepare for the impending doom. The speculation is that the algorithm change will specifically affect search results on mobile devices and give priority in those listings to mobile-friendly websites. Results on desktop searches may not be affected as much, if at all, but when you consider that about 30% of all Google searches occur on mobile devices, it’s becoming considerably harder to justify not incorporating a responsive design into your website.

How to Know If Your Site Is Mobile Friendly

First, if you’re a current client of Hoelscher Creative and we built your site within the past three years, your site is already mobile-friendly and should meet Google’s requirements. But don’t take my word for it. Google offers a test that lets you check if you have a mobile-friendly website.

If you have Google Webmaster Tools set up for your site, you can use it’s mobile usability tool, as well. The tool is located under “Search Traffic” on the left column menu. (You can also do your own search for your site on a mobile device to see if Google has applied the “Mobile Friendly” tag to your listing.)

Webmaster Tools Mobile Usability Tool

 

If You Don’t Have a Mobile-Friendly Website…

Talk to your web developer or webmaster if you have one. This person should have a strong sense of your brand and budget, as well as the capabilities and limitations of your current site. If he or she isn’t familiar with responsive design, then it might be time to shop for a new person to help you out. Always do a thorough review of any prospective developer’s portfolio, and check to make sure that their most recent projects are fully responsive.

If your site is built on top of WordPress, then there are some things you might be able to do on your own. The plugin WPtouch is a good place to start for quickly adding mobile friendly capabilities to your site. It’s a free plugin, with a Pro version available for purchase, and it should only take a few minutes get up and running on your site.

WPtouch Mobile Plugin

A better option, though, (again, if you’re on WordPress) might be just switching themes. The WordPress Theme Repository houses nearly a thousand free themes that are tagged as “responsive,” and if you require limited customizations to your site, then installing a new theme might be the best long-term solution. If you’re not comfortable make stylistic changes to your site, however, you should consult a web developer before you do anything drastic.

If you have a custom-built site, I can tell you that coding a fully responsive site does take a significant time investment. Your developer should employ a mobile-first approach when they do the front-end work on your site to make sure that every element transitions smoothly from one screen size to another. It ensures that there’s less baggage attached to your site’s code. Nothing beats clean code, especially if your concerned with improving your position in Google’s search results.

After you make any changes to your site to make it more mobile friendly, be sure to TEST! Look at the site in various browsers (Chrome, Internet Explorer, Firefox, Safari) and on both desktop and mobile devices. Click every button and test every link. If you’re using Firefox, you can press Ctrl + Shift + M (on a PC) or go to “Responsive Design Tools” under “Developer Tools” to view your site at various screen sizes.

Having a mobile-friendly website has been important element of your visitor’s experience for some time now, but the upcoming changes to the Google algorithm should make it your top online marketing priority.

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