Google’s Mobile-Friendly Algorithm May Impact Your Blog Traffic: Act NOW!

The deadline is fast approaching! Yes, Google will be rolling out its ‘Mobile-Friendly’ Algorithm update on April 21st whereby the websites and blogs that are not rendered well on mobile browsers are likely to be impacted big time. In other words, being ‘Mobile-friendly’ is getting significant weightage in the Google search ranking algorithm which is based on several dozens of parameters including this one.

Well, Google had announced the intent long time back and some of you must have even seen an error message in your Webmaster Tools page regarding the same. Of course, many of us already had a Mobile plugin or were using a responsive theme which took care of the mobile-friendly rendering or readability. But, is that enough to guarantee mobile-friendliness in Google’s eyes?

How to check if your blog is Mobile-Friendly?

Reading it on a mobile device may seem to be the logical answer but that’s not what we are looking for. The following are the two approaches to make sure that your blog is good for mobile reading.

  1. Check your Webmaster Tools Messages section for anything that reads like ‘
    Fix mobile usability issues found on ‘http://yourblog.com’
    ‘. If you got such a message recently, it’s time to act
  2. Next, visit the Google Mobile Friendly test tool and run your URL their. Regardless, of the Webmaster tools message, if you find any error reported by this tool, you have to fix them

Options for achieving Mobile-Friendliness

1. Responsive themes (EASIEST)

Well, the easiest thing to do would be switching to a good responsive WordPress theme which takes care of the readability and maneuverability aspects on any device. This is probably the cleanest approach as well because the responsiveness comes as part of the blog theme design and you don’t have to do much yourself.

2. WordPress Mobile Plugins (EASY)

If you don’t want to upgrade to a responsive theme, then the next easiest option is to go for a free or premium WordPress plugin that creates a mobile version of your website. The easiest of all plugins on that front is the Jetpack by WordPress.com. Why is it good? Because it creates a highly readable mobile version on any WordPress blog with just one click activation (with WordPress.com login) and enabling the mobile theme. Of course, its features are pretty much limited and nothing much can be customized via options. Another option (probably most popular) is the WP Touch which might offer you a lot more options in terms of styling and customizing the mobile version of your website.

3. Edit your style sheets (HARD)

This is a bit advanced topic and not recommended for most bloggers unless they are comfortable with coding style sheets. However, if you are so emotionally attached to your current non-responsive theme and you don’t want to take the plugin route, the only option left is editing the style sheets and adding relevant viewport settings in your WordPress theme header area. I, in fact, ended up doing that on a couple of age-old blogs of mine whereby I didn’t want to switch my current theme owing to SEO worries.

Editing your theme to make it mobile friendly involve mainly two steps:

  1. Adding a viewport definition in your header.php (or relevant theme file that goes like:
    <meta name="viewport" content="width=device-width, initial-scale=1.0"/>
    (This is one of the common problems reported by the Google Mobile-Friendly test tool)
  2. Next, you have to add relevant responsive design styles with one or more @media only screen sections in your stylesheet.
    E.g. @media only screen and (max-width: 480px) { // add your relevant styles to adjust widths and/or hide any screen elements for mobile reading }
    This is a vast topic and I wouldn’t want to venture into the same in this post. As a matter of fact, I am not a major expert at that either.

After the fixes…

Once you have done the basic mobile-friendly fixes, you have one last but most important step to do. You have done all the hard work but now have to let Google know that you have finally achieved Mobile-friendliness on your blog(s). You may do the following steps to let Google verify and endorse your site again:

  1. Go to your Google Webmaster Tools account
  2. Under the Crawl section, choose the ‘Fetch as Google‘ link
  3. Type in your URL and choose the ‘Mobile: Smartphone‘ from the drop down next to the URL box, and click ‘Fetch
  4. Once it’s fetched, click the ‘Submit to Index‘ button to re-submit all your URLs that have been just mobile enabled

That’s pretty much it! Enabling mobile friendliness not only gives you a wider audience for your content but more importantly that’s going to be the future of content consumption. For example, one of my blogs had hardly 5-6% of mobile visitors a year ago, but now that figure has gone up to about 20%! Of course, it can vary based on your niche. For example, an auto blog of mine on women topics, get 40% of its visit from mobile phones and tablets. Hence, don’t miss out the Google mobile boat/bot!

Comments

  1. Google is really making things completely different if I compare with few years back. Their algorithm has gone through huge changes, GOD knows what is next.

  2. Google’s mobile-friendly update wasn’t affected much of search results. The traffic is almost the same even after a month after the update from Google.

    Let’s see how it impacts other websites. Ajith, have you seen any traffic drop after the update?

  3. Jacob James :

    Great write up! As people all over the world go mobile, it is crucial for every business to understand the behavior of mobile visitors to the website. Thanks to Google Analytics for simplifying the process of identifying the mobile device traffic.

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