Google gets tough with website owners

Smartphone and tablet on a table with two pairs of hands

Google is getting tough with website owners. It has started sending out notifications (via Google Webmaster Tools) if your website is not mobile-friendly. For example, if your site was designed for desktop screens and/or does not have a responsive web design structure and layout. This is because a site like this does not adapt to different screen sizes and the usage requirements for smartphones (and for tablets like the iPad).

And, Google says that, from April 21st, search results will take mobile usability into account. Sites will "be displayed and ranked accordingly for smartphone users". This means that a site with mobile usability issues will undoubtedly rank lower in Google's algorithm.

Mobile usability is more and more important and Google has been slowly increasing the emphasis on this in recent years. So, whilst the notifications are a more proactive step from Google, it shouldn't be too surprising that Google is taking this approach.

What Can I Do?

Firstly, you'll need to assess the importance of mobile device usage and browsing for your business. It may not be important to you now. However, you cannot ignore it for too much longer. And you will probably lose business if you do.

Why not look at your site visitor statistics to see how many visitors are using smartphones to browse your site. If you run an ecommerce site, why not test how easy it is to buy something using a smartphone?

You can test your site using Google's Mobile-Friendly Test page. The results from this contain useful advice which will inform your decision.

My advice is that you need to act and put in place a mobile browsing plan for your site.

This might include:

  1. A site rebuild or redesign using responsive web design methods or
  2. A new and responsive WordPress theme for your site or
  3. It may be possible to recode aspects of your site to make the site more mobile-friendly and remove mobile usability issues.

Don't Panic!

You may not want to redesign or rebuild your website. Perhaps you haven't budgeted for that. Yet, with some sensible tweaks, retrofitting a responsive layout and removing mobile usability issues on a modern site is workable. It takes time and may not be possible on old sites. But, on more modern sites, it can be done and your site will pass Google's mobile-friendly test.

For example, I've recoded part of the Toys and Learning site so that it has a flexible layout. There's more work to be done but the site has greatly improved mobile usability and passes the Google test. I'm very pleased with the result!

Summary

Mobile browsing is very important and you could be losing business if your site isn't mobile device-friendly. Assess and make a plan for mobile usage for your site. Every website will be different but mobile usability is achievable with a redesign or a recoding approach.

More: The Cliff Hotel, a family friendly hotel in Bude Cornwall, is another website that I've recoded to improve its mobile usability.

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