Recently, Google changed its Algorithm to rank websites that display better on cell phones higher than those that do not when a person uses a mobile device to search the web. This is significant and important because, according to the Pew Research Center, 7% of people ” are “smartphone-dependent” and as of May 2013, 63% of adult cell phone users use their phones to go online in some capacity or another. If a business is dependent upon the web to reach its customers, this is an important advancement in achieving that goal.
If a website looks fine when the owner views it on their mobile device, are they all set?
Maybe, but maybe not. A site that appears well on a mobile device may still not have the responsive design necessary to rank well on Google. According to Google Developers, a “[r]esponsive web design (RWD) is a setup where the server always sends the same HTML code to all devices and CSS is used to alter the rendering of the page on the device.” In other words, the code on the site needs to give the browser direction on how to adjust the pages to the dimensions of the device being used. A site or page may look fine on one tablet or smart phone but not another. Just viewing the site and assuming its appearance is the same on all other cell phones or tablets is a bad idea.
What can one do to test the responsiveness and mobile friendliness of their website?
First, review the top seven mistakes Google published in regard to mobile websites. These include content that does not run well on mobile devices such as Flash, and cross-links, like having several links that simply return a customer back to the website home page. These adjustments are often simple to fix and are not just important to mobile ranking, they make sense from a user-friendly perspective.
Second, test the website to understand Google’s perspective on the mobile responsiveness of the site. Using this tool, one can see if the text on the site is the right size for mobile reading, if the content is too wide for mobile screens, and other important factors to know if the site will rank well in a mobile setting. Google offers solutions to these problems, so running this test is an imperative.
Third, make the changes necessary to improve the website’s ability to create a better experience for those who view it on a mobile device. This may require a new and more updated theme if the site utilizes a platform such as WordPress, which is often not advisable from a branding standpoint, but may be necessary in order to remain high on Google search.
Finally, once this is complete, proactively request Google re-search the site to index it according to its new mobile functionality. This will address any prior demerits a site received from Google for poor coding. This is done by utilizing the Fetch as Google tool in which a site owner can request that Google search the site and newly rank the page based upon the improved coding.