Google’s plans to penalize websites that don’t meet its new mobile-friendly websites criteria by April 21, 2015. This is such an important issue that I invited Paula Gregorowicz – the best webmaster I’ve ever met and the person who manages my website – to write a guest blog post today. So let me introduce you to Paula Gregorowicz. (She’s also an author!)
You’ve done so much hard work … written and published your book, built a platform, and spread the word about your book. So you want your website to be working for you as part of your team.
But if you’re not careful and if your site is not mobile friendly, your site could soon be working against your efforts and you might not even know it.
Google announced that starting April 21, 2015, it will begin penalizing websites that do not meet it’s mobile friendly criteria. That means not mobile friendly = no ranking in mobile search results = missed opportunities/smaller audience.
[clickToTweet tweet=”Google will penalize websites that do not meet it’s mobile friendly criteria by April 21″ quote=”Google will penalize websites that do not meet it’s mobile friendly criteria by April 21″]
There’s a lot of hype and panic surrounding this announcement, so let’s get at the heart of what you need to know.
Note: Whether you are reading this article prior to April 21, 2015 or even months later, the 3 points that follow still apply.
What Does Mobile Friendly Really Mean?
A mobile friendly website is one that displays correctly on hand-held devices (smartphones, tablets, etc.). Since these devices are notably smaller than desktop screens (approximately 1/5th the size), not only does the site content need to display acceptably, it should create a positive user experience and minimize the time it takes to load on the smaller device.
Over 60% of adults use their phone to go online (Pew Research) and the number is only growing. If your audience is on mobile (hint: they are), your site needs to attract and keep their interest.
[clickToTweet tweet=”Over 60% of adults use their phone to go online” quote=”Over 60% of adults use their phone to go online”]
How Do I Know if My Site Passes the Test?
While the SEO effects of the Google algorithm change are what gets the most attention (after all who really wants to be penalized and have their site sent into the corner?), the fundamentals of this change are rooted in good business practice.
Google has always been about creating a positive experience for users. More and more users are on mobile. Therefore, Google is further tailoring the experience so mobile users aren’t faced with search results that lead to sites that won’t work on the device on which they just conducted the search.
You can go here to see if your site passes Google’s test. If you pass… you should see something great like this:
If you don’t, you’ll see something more like this:
While passing Google’s test keeps you out of their search engine doghouse, that doesn’t necessarily mean your site is displaying optimally on mobile. I’ve tested more than a few sites that say, “You passed!” but then are still very difficult to use on mobile. So even if you pass, you want to take the time to review your mobile strategy for your website.
[clickToTweet tweet=” Take time to review the mobile strategy for your website” quote=” Take time to review the mobile strategy for your website”]
You can get more details on how to improve your site for mobile in Google Webmaster Tools under “mobile usability reports”.
What Are My Options to Make My Site Mobile Friendly?
The Google algorithm change will roll out on a page by page basis and in real-time.
This is important for two reasons:
- If you have one or two pages that are most important you can address them first. And conversely if you have one or two pages that are never going to be mobile friendly you can stop stressing and let them go (just be sure they aren’t at the hub of your strategy!)
- Any changes you make will get picked up in the algorithm in real time (or close to it), so even if you’re not mobile friendly on April 21, you can address the issue in a timely manner and not spend the rest of 2015 in the doghouse.
You have a few options for making your site mobile friendly. As with all things you need to weigh your goals with the time and resources it takes to implement each of these options.
There’s absolutely nothing negative about taking a more short-term solution “for now” and saving the bigger redesign on a fully mobile responsive design “for later.” Just know that you won’t be able to ignore “for later” for years on end.
If you have a site built on WordPress you have several options (listed in increasing complexity/cost):
- Use a mobile friendly plugin to deliver a stripped down version of your site to mobile devices.
- Redesign your website (either a little or a lot) so it uses a fully mobile responsive theme.
- Retrofit your existing design/theme so it becomes mobile friendly.
If your site is built on another CMS (content management system) platform, Google has a platform by platform guide here.
If your site is a straight HTML site (no CMS), your options include:
- Redesign your website (either a little or a lot) with new fully mobile responsive code.
- Adapt your existing code to make it more mobile friendly.
- Move your static HTML site to a platform like WordPress and start with a mobile responsive theme to customize your design.
You can read a more in-depth article on the pros and cons of each of these options in the article: How to Make Your Website Mobile Friendly.
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About the author of this post: Paula Gregorowicz is a website designer, life and business strategist, author, and speaker who is a recognized expert on career and business. Her passion is for living life fully. Find out more about her on her website.
About the author of this website: Frances Caballo is an author and social media strategist and manager for writers. You can receive a free copy of her book Twitter Just for Writers by signing up for her newsletter. Connect with Frances on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Pinterest, and Google+