Ready or not, here comes Google’s next big algorithm change! Scheduled to launch on April 21st, 2015, SEOs and industry experts are bracing themselves for what is expected to be one of the most impactful updates yet.
The rumour is that this “huge algo upset” will overshadow Google’s previous Panda update and will be called either Elephant or T-Rex, names that likely allude to the size of the update’s impact on mobile website rankings.
But why is this update so important to Google? It’s because of users’ growing preference for mobile devices. What was once a trend towards mobile has turned into a full-on mobile revolution and Google wants to make sure they are at the front of it. This is why they want to ensure that mobile search engine results not only return high quality, relevant links, but also great mobile experiences.
Is your website ready?
Figure out if your website is ready for Google’s mobile update by following these 3 steps:
1) Visit Google’s Mobile-Friendly Test, and enter your website’s top URLs.
Once you enter your URL, the result will either be pass or fail.
In the event that a web page fails the test, you will be given a number of suggestions for improvement of the page. (Note that the test examines pages on a per-URL basis, meaning that it is not crawling your entire website for non-mobile-friendly pages. You must enter each page one by one.)
Alternatively, you can check the mobile-friendliness of your website pages by opening Google in a browser on your mobile device and typing the following into the search bar:
Look for the grey Mobile-friendly label below the green URL for your top indexed website pages.
Any pages that don’t display the Mobile-friendly label should be run through the Mobile-Friendly Test to determine what elements are missing.
Advanced Tip: If Google Webmaster Tools is setup, in the Mobile Usability section, Google will list every URL on the website that is not mobile-friendly as well as the specific issues you’ll want to address.
2) Did your page pass?
If your entire website passed the test, congratulations! Your website should be OK for the launch on April 21st. Although, if the Mobile-Friendly Test found some resources blocked, it may be worth it to check your website with the PageSpeed Insights tool and consult with a web developer to ensure that the mobile experience is optimal.
3) If your website failed
If you see the red not mobile-friendly tag after running the test, don’t despair, you still have a few options available to you:
- If at first you don’t succeed, try, try again.
Depending on how your website is coded, sometimes a “fail” may be assigned if Googlebot is having difficulty accessing your website at that moment. On the results page, look for the message: “A temporary error occurred. 5 resources on this page could not be loaded. The results and screenshot may be incorrect. You may want to try again later.”
- Fix common issues
Most of the issues found will likely require the help of a web developer or designer. A summary of mobile errors affecting your website can also be viewed within the Mobile Usability section, under Search Traffic in your Webmaster Tools account.
- If at first you don’t succeed, try, try again.
We’ve explained some of the more common errors below:
“Text too small to read”
In this case, Google is detecting that the font visible to a user is smaller than 16 CSS pixels. The fix for this isn’t necessarily in increasing font size, a web designer or developer would be able to help in determining the best course of action for your existing website. Refer to Google’s Legible Font Sizes documentation for more.
“Links too close together”
Google recommends webmasters make important, clickable elements at least 7mm or 48 CSS pixels tall. Other links can be smaller, but should be spaced far enough apart so that a user would not have to zoom in order for a 10mm finger pad to select it. Refer to Google’s Tap Target recommendations for further detail.
“Content wider than screen”
In this case the most likely cause is there is an image on your website that is larger than a mobile device screen. This can be avoided if the viewport is configuring correctly (as described below); and image widths are relative rather than absolute (For example 80% vs 300px). Learn more about this error.
“Mobile viewport not set”
A viewport essentially instructs the webpage to display a certain way when it is detected that a user is viewing the webpage from a mobile device. The viewport would automatically scale the page to fit a device’s smaller screen appropriately. The fix? All you need to do is add a simple line of code into the head of your webpage. Read more on configuring your viewport.
- If your website isn’t mobile-friendly, it’s likely that you will see some change in Google mobile traffic rankings after April 21st, 2015.
- If you don’t notice a big change right away, you could later down the road once Google picks up on the poor mobile experience being delivered to users.
- Remember that this update only impacts smartphones, not tablets.
- Don’t freak out if your website fails Google’s Mobile-Friendly Test. Make notes of the issues and contact a web designer or developer as soon as you can.
- Most importantly, don’t rush any major changes out the door as this algorithm change is not a penalty, but rather an opportunity for a boost. Furthermore, it appears to work in real-time so as soon as you make your pages mobile-friendly, they will start to benefit.