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Google Update – Do You Have a Mobile Friendly Website?

You've got 1 week to get your website into shape!

April 21st will see the arrival of Google's new search algorithm designed to weed out those sites that are not mobile friendly.

In this post we look at the impending changes and how you can ensure you are ready.​

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Mobile-Friendly Background

Stage 1

Towards the end of last year Google announced that it was going to bring in some changes to help people find mobile-friendly sites when searching on a mobile site.

I'm sure you've experienced those websites on your mobile where the pages are unfriendly.

You know, the ones where the text is so small you'd need a magnifying glass to read it.​

Or the ones where you have to scroll sideways to read the content.

Its frustrating isn't it? My first reaction is to hit the 'back' button and find a website that is friendly.

But how do you know what is friendly before you actually open the page?

Enter Google's latest search change​!

​Last November they announced:

​To make it easier for people to find the information that they’re looking for, we’re adding a “mobile-friendly” label to our mobile search results.

You can see that in action already when you search on your mobile device:

mobile-friendly1 | byteofdata.com

Stage 2

Now Google is going to take this a stage further.

Unlike other Google algorithm changes, notably Panda and Penguin, we have been given specific notice. 

​On February 26th they announced the updates to their algorithm:

Starting April 21, we will be expanding our use of mobile-friendliness as a ranking signal. This change will affect mobile searches in all languages worldwide and will have a significant impact in our search results. Consequently, users will find it easier to get relevant, high quality search results that are optimized for their devices

What does that mean?

It means you had better make sure that your website is mobile-friendly by April 21st.

If it is not mobile-friendly then your website will drop down the rankings in Google for mobile searches.​

When 48% of all mobile research begins on a search engine, according to Google's own mobile path to purchase report, you can't take the chance of your site being removed from the mobile-friendly index.

Of course, you could ignore the warning and take a chance that your desktop ranking won't be affected, but that won't help you or your readers in the long run.

More and more people are using their mobile devices when surfing the net. I know I do.

Its just so handy at times to have a quick search on something. If it doesn't look good I either have to find a site that is good or bookmark the site to check on my desktop later.

Guess which one of those options wins?

Do you want to lose potential visitors to your site?

So, how do you check if you have a mobile-friendly website?

Mobile-Friendly Test

Until the algorithm changes take effect we won't know exactly what will happen. 

In the meantime, Google has given us some tools to check if our website is mobile-friendly.​

Tool #1

If you want to test a few pages, you can use the Mobile-Friendly Test.

This test allows you to enter specific pages, one at a time, and see if they pass the test.

Here is the criteria that Google is checking for:

  • Avoids software that is not common on mobile devices, like Flash
  • Uses text that is readable without zooming
  • Sizes content to the screen so users don't have to scroll horizontally or zoom
  • Places links far enough apart so that the correct one can easily be tapped

Here's what I get when testing the Byte Of Data home page:

mobile-friendly2 | byteofdata.com

That's a great start! 

Underneath is some helpful text explaining what the Google robot has detected:​

mobile-friendly3 | byteofdata.com

And below that is a simulation of your mobile web page as detected by Google:

mobile-friendly4 | byteofdata.com

​Remember, this is just for the one page you are testing.

Rinse and repeat for other pages on your website.

Tool #2

​If you want to test your whole website, then you can use the Mobile Usability Report.

Here's what I get when checking ByteOfData.com

mobile-friendly5 | byteofdata.com

​So, how do you ensure that you have a mobile-friendly website?

Mobile-Friendly Themes

If you are using WordPress then you need to ensure you have selected and installed a Mobile Responsive Theme.

A mobile responsive theme is coded in such a way that no matter what screen size you view the webpages on they will automatically adjust and adapt.

When selecting a theme make sure it states 'mobile responsive' in the features.

Friend or foe? Some themes claim to be mobile-friendly but just shrinking the text size makes them mobile-unfriendly!

Click to Tweet

There are many WordPress Theme vendors, but based on my experience I can recommend two: StudioPress and Thrive Themes.

StudioPress

StudioPress is a well-established WordPress Theme vendor.

I started this site in 2014 with a StudioPress theme called Centric Pro.

One of my main reasons for choosing StudioPress was because all of their Pro-themes are mobile responsive.​

Head over to StudioPress to see what they can offer you.

Thrive Themes

​Thrive Themes produce a variety of WordPress themes which are all mobile responsive.

If you check out reason number 7 from "10 Reasons Thrive Themes Are a Cut Above the Rest" you will see the following:

mobile-friendly6 | byteofdata.com

I'm currently using FocusBlog from Thrive Themes. Its just one of nine that they currently have in the range.

Check out the full range of Thrive Themes to find one that suits your needs!

As a Thrive Member you get access to all current and future Themes and Plugins. One annual membership fee ensures you remain at the cutting edge of design and functionality!​

Mobile-Friendly Service

If you are still a bit befuddled with all this 'mobile-friendly' and 'mobile-responsive' talk, then there is a 'stress-free' way to move forward. Engage a website designer to help you. I can recommend a couple of guys if you are stuck.

Summary

Here's what you have learned today:

  • The latest Google algorithm change is just around the corner
  • If your site is not mobile-friendly you will pay a penalty in mobile search rankings

Let me know your thoughts in the comments below:

  • Have you passed the test? Is your website mobile-friendly?
  • Which mobile responsive theme are you using?
David Hartshorne
 

I'm David and I'm the guy doing most of the writing around here. I'm a freelance writer helping solopreneurs and small businesses build their online presence through friendly, engaging and shareable blog posts.

  • How very apt. I’m viewing this very site on mobile, and yes, it is incredibly user friendly and responsive.

    I have to admit I’ve known about this for some time, but I still haven’t tested all my sites. It’s on my to do list for the weekend though.

    Thanks for the useful links David, I will certainly use those to check how well my sites are doing.

    Thanks for raising this important topic and reminding me. Take it easy David, speak soon.

    • Hi Richard,

      I’m sure your sites will all be fine as you use quality WordPress themes, but, like you say its best to check and tweak if necessary.

      Have a great weekend (testing)!
      – David

  • Yay! I’m mobile-friendly 🙂

    Nice post David. Funny, I was just thinking about doing a post on this the other day. Guess you beat me to it 😉 Nice links.

    I got my theme from StudioPress and that was one of the qualifications I had when searching for a theme. If it wasn’t going to show up well on my phone, it was a no-go.

    Thanks for the tips about the tools.

    Mark

    • Hi Mark,

      With StudioPress you were always going to pass the test. Like you when I started last year I chose a mobile responsive theme from them. With so many mobile responsive WordPress themes out there, I don’t think anyone can have an excuse for being mobile unfriendly.

      You can just share my post to your readers and put your feet up for a well-deserved break!
      Have a good weekend!
      – David

  • Hi David,

    Informative article! 🙂

    Oh yes, I have passed the test. I now have a mobile friendly website. I am grateful that many of my blogger friends that discuss about this matter. It make me realize how important a website that friendly with mobile devices.

    Indeed, right now I have not responsive theme yet, I just use a plugin that support with it. I hope I will use the theme responsive someday, hopefully. 🙂

    Thanks for sharing and have a great week ahead for you!

    Regards,
    Nanda

  • Some awesome tips and resources David. Wouldn’t expect anything less.

    I have one site that is not wordpress, my most important site, and it’s not very mobile friendly. Since it’s not wordpress, it’s not easy to get it in shape. I’ve been meaning to convert it over, just not an easy task. But with G’s new requirements, it’s a good push to get it done. Started on it, just have the hard part left. Not looking forward to it. Will be worth it in the end, for more than just mobile comparability.

    I have not used it, but I’ve heard Wp Touch is a good plug-in. It’s one I am going to try.

    Thanks for the share 🙂

    • Thanks Ron,

      Good luck with the conversion of your main site – give me a shout if you want some help or just need to talk it through. Can’t promise a solution but sometimes it helps just to talk it through.

      Second time I heard of WP Touch today. Not tried it, but it may offer a quick fix? Personally I’d look for a long-term solution with a mobile responsive theme.

      Keep us posted Ron!
      – David

  • Hi David,
    Good to be here again!
    A well explained and a timely post for all bloggers and web owners.
    Though it’s a serious subject many are unaware and not so serious about it.
    But as we all know, how Google will deal with us if its not a mobile friendly one.
    Thanks for the tuto and the timely alert!
    Yes, you have been mentioned in one of my latest post.
    Thanks for your kind visit to my page.
    May you have a great day.
    Best Regards
    ~ Philip

    • Hi Philip,

      Thanks for the mention in your post – I caught that earlier today – very kind of you!

      How Google chooses to penalise ‘mobile-unfriendly’ sites is one thing, but as website owners I think we owe it to our readers to make our content as readable as possible, whichever type of device they may be using.

      Have a great weekend Philip!
      – David

      • Thanks Dave for the quick response, yes, I am sure many will be benefited by that post. Keep sharing, Keep us inform
        Have a great day
        Best
        ~ Phil

  • Hi David,

    Thanks for providing free software to test our sites. I was recently contacted via email by an unknown person saying that they could create a mobile friendly website and make all necessary changes ahead of the Google mobile update and their prices start from $300.

    I don’t think so!

    Naomi

    • Hi Naomi,

      It’s Google’s software – just pointing you in the right direction 🙂

      Looks to me like you’re already mobile-friendly, so that’s a bit naughty of someone to try and flog a service that you don’t need. Good job you are too wise for them!

      Have a great weekend!
      – David

  • Hey David,

    April 21st is closing in on us soon, and if your site isn’t mobile ready then definitely you want to make that happened. I happen to use Studio Press’s Genesis Framework and most of the child themes, if not all, were mobile friendly. Yes you may have to spend some money, but it’s better to spend than to be penalized. There are also great alternatives as far as free plugins, but I do believe in the long run paying for a theme works the best!

    Thanks for sharing and bring this to our attention! Have a great weekend!

    I found your post on kingged.com under the category of SEO/SEM

    http://kingged.com/google-update-do-you-have-a-mobile-friendly-website/

    • Hey Sherman,

      The Genesis Framework is solid and most themes are mobile responsive, so you’re onto a winner! Like you, I believe its a wise investment to go for a premium theme from a vendor like StudioPress.

      Have a good weekend!
      – David

  • Ilka Emig

    Thanks David!

    Very informative post as always. I passed the mobile-friendly test. Yay! Thanks for sharing the link.

    Have a great weekend, Ilka

    • Hi Ilka,

      Good to hear you passed the mobile-friendly test 🙂

      Hope you’re having a great week!
      – David

  • Hey David, great post and at a good time too with Google about to unleash hell on those sites not mobile friendly. I’ve had just a few experiences where I’ve visited a site on my smartphone where it wasn’t mobile friendly. StudioPress and Thrive are certainly the ones to go for in my experience.

    By the way, great to see you rocking the Focus blog theme from Thrive too. You’ve got to love Thrive at the moment, they’re crushing it right now.

    Anyway great post, have a great weekend buddy!

    • Hey Fabrizio,

      Glad you’re with me on StudioPress and Thrive – they certainly have the best mobile-friendly themes in my opinion.

      Have a great week!
      – David

  • Hi David,

    It’s really time, we all need to be mobile friendly.

    I have tested my site on tablets and smart phones and it looks great, but thanks for sharing this for those who still don’t have a mobile friendly site.

    Thanks and sharing!

    ~Sylviane

    • Hi Sylviane,

      Yes, I think its time for folks to realise that mobile device searching is on the increase and therefore we should be giving them the best possible experience.

      Thanks for your comment and shares – much appreciated!
      – David

  • Hey David,

    Tomorrow is the big day my friend. I’m ready for them, bring em on. I was really nervous because my plugin I use would sometimes not register with Google but I’ve checked all the sources you shared here and I’m mobile ready. I’m keeping my fingers crossed that when the big day hits tomorrow I will still pass.

    I intend to get another theme as you know but I still haven’t make a decision so just glad that I’m good with Google because I hate getting on their bad side.

    You really shared some awesome information in this one and I hope all those that hadn’t prepared will after reading this. They’ve got less than 24 hours now.

    ~Adrienne

    • Hey Adrienne,

      I hope April 21st went smoothly for you – I’m sure you were ok!
      We are all waiting to see what theme you choose and how the new-look site will compare. It will be good to have mobile responsive theme and give you chance to drop one plugin at least.

      Thanks for your comment and shares, especially on G+ where we had a good conversation!
      – David

  • Hi David,

    I hopped across to read your Blog post about how important it is to have a responsive website today. Especially with Google taking a big stick to website that refuse to understand or believe that
    the number of site visitors accessing their website have increased exponentially today.

    There are times though when I wonder why Google has taken this stand. IMO there would be a natural shakeout anyway, gradually site owners who refuse to ensure their website is responsive would lose the traffic that comes in on mobile devices anyway. In your very first paragraph you’ve hit this nail on its head.

    Then I remembered that Google wants to deliver the perfect match between what people are seeking and what they are delivering them in return.

    It’s passed 21st of April 2015, the day this comment is being written in the 23rd April, very likely
    site owners are feeling the impact of what Google has announced. In their defence they certainly gave site owners enough time and enough warning.

    Google has helped as well by providing the – Mobile friendly test – free to use. The report delivered by the tool is friendly and helpful.

    I think anyone buying a premium WordPress theme from Envato themeforest (which I use regularly) or any other reputed theme seller they are always going to get a responsive theme today.

    Studio Press and Thrive, are two excellent examples of great responsive themes for WordPress.

    There are a ton of great looking – Free WP Themes – that are responsive as well, all you have to do is Google for them. Hence, ignoring responsiveness is really indicative that one is not really keen on their Internet based asset.

    Thanks for sharing David, BTW I came across to your Blogsite from Kingged.

    • Hi Ivan,

      Thanks so much for your comment and thoughts on the Google Update.

      Only time will tell what effects this change will have, but I do think webmasters should get their sites into a mobile friendly state. With WordPress we have plenty of responsive themes to choose from, so we really have no excuses.

      Let’s see what happens…
      – David

      • Yes, I think everyone is waiting to see the impact of Google algo (or vision) change.

        I’ve already had a few people say they’ve lost their coveted positions on Google SERPs but, they should have paid attention to what was happening on the Net.

        As you’ve said, there are so many options for crafting a responsive site, that not to do so is unwise.

        Let’s see what happens. . . .

        • Talking with an online colleague, he reckons about 70% of sites won’t pass the Google test…

  • Hello, David,

    Very good article – it’s such an important topic. You brought up a lot of great points, and thanks for the wonderful links. I have a few niche sites, I still need to test, but last time I did, was fine. But it’s definitely been a while, so better put that on my To Do list. LOL

    My main Authority Blog has been optimized for mobile since last year. It’s so important to stay one step ahead with regards to your main money site, that’s for sure. I outsourced to save time, and to make sure it wasn’t just ‘friendly’ but optimized. Your site looks great on mobile too, awesome job. 🙂

    Excellent – sharing with friends. Hope your weekend is enjoyable and you get good weather!

    Talk soon,

    ˜Carol

    • Hi Carol,

      Hope you had a great weekend.

      I was reading an article over the weekend and it looks like we are starting to see the effects of Google’s update. There was a comparison of desktop SEO vs mobile SEO for a European site and since the Google ‘mobile-friendly’ algorithm change the mobile SEO has dropped considerably.

      Your main site is looking good Carol, so just your niche sites left to check.

      Have a great week ahead!
      – David

  • Hi Waqas,

    Yes, the use of mobile devices is definitely on the increase and we can no longer afford to ignore that part of the market. We have a duty to provide a quality experience to our readers no matter what device they choose to use.

    Thanks for visiting us via Kingged.com
    – David

  • Hi David, it’s good to be at your blog.

    Sorry my comment comes a bit late but your post is still relevant because Google’s mobile search index has been recently launched and every one has got all the chances to make their post feature on it, with the mobile-friendly tag.

    Did you check the latest SEMrush stats and rankings? They now even show the Google mobile index keyword rankings. Though I’ve not got much traffic from the mobile searches, most of my site keywords are present in the new mobile search index.

    It is so important to have a mobile-friendly website not only because Google wants it, but even more so for the blog visitors. Getting a mobile responsive theme is the first step in the process of making your website mobdile-friendly because there is much more to do.

    Thank you for this important information. And to answer your questions, yes my site theme from ThemeForest passed the test and is completely mobile-friendly. 🙂

    • Hi Vinay,

      Welcome to Byte of Data – so pleased to have you here!

      Its not too late at all Vinay because since writing the post we have slowly started to see the effects of not having mobile-friendly site. Yoast published some early data on the findings comparing a desktop and mobile ranking for the same site. Already it showed the mobile ranking taking a dip because the site was not mobile-friendly.

      But as you say, ranking in Google is just one aspect because ultimately you want to provide the best possible experience for your visitors.

      I really like the clean look to Aha-now.com with your new theme from ThemeForest. Which hosting service are you using nowadays?

      Have a great week ahead!
      – David

      • David, Aha!NOW was earlier on HostGator but we switched to Siteground about 7 months back. It was a good decision as it is better on all fronts. Thanks and have a great Sunday!