responsive design meme

Time is running out: Google’s mobile algorithm update hits in t minus 20 days (April 21st) and if your site is not responsive, you need to act. Fortunately, you’ve come to the right place to learn everything you need to know, including:

  • What the update is and why Google is rolling it out
  • The extent of the update
  • What you need to do about it

Feel free to skip sections you may already be familiar with.

What is Google’s Mobile Algorithm Update, and What are They Trying to Accomplish?

It is extremely important to Google that they serve up the highest quality search results to their users. High quality means that not only is the content on the page useful, but that the user experience on the page is good, too. Have you ever clicked on a link to an article that was otherwise interesting, but the page was so slow or riddled with ads that you left in disgust? Have you also noticed how you’ll find these articles on social media, but not on Google? Bad user experience doesn’t work in search.

A site that doesn’t adjust to mobile devices does not provide a good user experience. As Google wrote in a recent blog post:

“When it comes to search on mobile devices, users should get the most relevant and timely results, no matter if the information lives on mobile-friendly web pages or apps. As more people use mobile devices to access the internet, our algorithms have to adapt to these usage patterns.”

 In the long run, we can thank Google for prompting all businesses to keep up with the times.

What is the scope of this update?

On one hand, this is only going to impact mobile searches - on the other, mobile searches constitute a large and growing percentage of overall searches. A good indicator here is that Google’s Webmaster Trends Analyst, Zineb Ait Bahajji, has stated that the update will be bigger than Penguin and Panda, two previous algorithm changes. These affected 4% and 12% of English searches, respectively.

You can be sure that many sites will be left behind on mobile. Use the tools and tips below to make sure your site isn’t one of them.

How do I know if my site is mobile friendly?

If you’re not quite sure if you have any issues, use Google’s own Mobile-Friendly Test. Hopefully, you get something like this:

 Screenshot 2018-02-27 at 8.50.57 PM

The interesting thing here is that Google is not considering any degrees of mobile-friendliness; you either are or aren’t. If you aren’t, some possible causes are:

  • The content is wider than the screen: Users have to scroll horizontally to read the entire page.
  • The site text is too small: Users need to zoom in manually to read the text.
  • The links are too close together: Likely the result of small text as well. Links should be easy to tap accurately; if they are much smaller than the tip of your finger this causes usability issues.
  • The mobile viewport isn’t set: The mobile viewport sets the page width on the phone or tablet. If the page width doesn’t match the width of the actual device, then the viewport isn’t set. This is more technical than the previous three, but it is probably a symptom of the same issues, or a cause.

Our site isn’t mobile friendly, what do we do?

There is still time, but not a whole lot - the update will roll out April 21st, over the course of about a week, and you’ll want to have your site indexed by Google before then to avoid a dip in rankings. That means you’ll want the mobilization to be complete about a week beforehand, though that will vary as Google crawls different sites at different frequencies (sites that are updated more frequently are also crawled more frequently).

Still, even if you won’t have this done right on time, it will be better late than never. If you’re on WordPress, one quick and dirty method is to use a mobile-friendly plugin. I have to say our experience with these has not been great, though if you have a simple site a plugin might work.

The sure-fire option is to have a developer (and potentially a designer) help make your website responsive. We’ve done this for several clients, large and small, so If you need help just let us know!