A screen grab example of a Google Mobile Friendly website listingOn April 21st, Google’s ranking of sites based on their Mobile Friendliness goes into effect. There has been a lot of news surrounding this update including large numbers of FEAR marketing and spam emails stating things like, “If you don’t pass mobile friendliness, Google is removing you from the search listings.” This is usually an intro into a sales pitch on how they can help save your site.

Note that this affects all websites, not just WordPress sites. Our focus, at White Glove Web Training, currently focuses on WordPress.

What’s the truth about this update and how can you test and improve your WordPress website? Read on…

Will My Site be Removed from Google if it Isn’t Mobile Friendly?

The reality is that, while YES – Google is evaluating a site’s mobile friendliness when displaying their search rankings, particularly when the search is coming from a mobile device, they have stated that they are NOT removing companies from the search listings.

On April 14th, John Mueller from Google posted, “It’s great to get people motivated to make their website mobile-friendly, but we’re not going to be removing sites from search just because they’re not mobile-friendly.” https://plus.google.com/u/0/+JohnMueller/posts/4mhwD2vTiHw

Why Do I Need a Mobile Friendly Site?

While much of the marketing hype around becoming approved Mobile Friendly by Google was spam, it is important to be mobile friendly.

Google will be using mobile friendliness as a ranking signal particularly when displaying results in searches sent from mobile devices. This means it can definitely affect where your site will place in the Google listing.

Aside from appeasing the search engines, your site needs to be mobile friendly to help your customers. In 2014, CNN Money reported that Internet use from mobile devices surpassed desktops. http://money.cnn.com/2014/02/28/technology/mobile/mobile-apps-internet/

And the trend continues to grow, not lessen, so if your potential customers are online with mobile devices, you need to be mobile to support them. More Information on Mobile Internet Trends is available at http://www.smartinsights.com/mobile-marketing/mobile-marketing-analytics/mobile-marketing-statistics/

How Can I Tell if My Site is Mobile Friendly?

Just because you have a Premium Theme don’t assume it’s responsive, and just because you have a responsive theme (a theme that should scale based on the device), don’t assume it’s deemed Mobile Friendly by Google. Large images with improper settings can cause a theme that would normally pass the test to fail.

Flash animations are also going to cause trouble because many mobile devices, iPhone and iPad in particular, don’t support Flash. It’s time to make sure your site uses HTML 5 for animations. You can also safely embed YouTube videos into posts and pages.

Google’s criteria for mobile friendliness include:

  • Is the text readable without zooming or scrolling?
  • Do the images resize to fit the screen?
  • Are the links separate so they are easy to click on a mobile screen. If the links are too close together,Screen grab of a Google's mobile friendly test results. the site may be flagged as not mobile friendly.

The best way to tell if Google considers your site Mobile Friendly is to test it.


What to do if Your Site Fails the Mobile Friendly Test

If your site fails the mobile friendly test, try the free plugin, WPTouch.

As always, make sure you backup the site before adding any plugin.

Screen grab of the WordPress plugin WPTouch information

In testing, this worked for several non-responsive themes, although one site failed because a logo was hard coded to be too large. In this case, it required changing the underlying header file for the theme. According to the plugin creators, the professional version can be used to make images responsive. In our case, this wasn’t tested. The professional version starts at $59.00 for one site and can be found at WPTouch.com.

Even if WPTouch does work for your site, consider it a quick fix. I highly recommend budgeting to update to a new theme that is mobile friendly. Just as specifications for the underlying HTML change over time, site requirements have changed. A well written site will match these requirements NOT depend on a plugin and future updates of that plugin to keep the site relevant.