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Google Mobile Update: You Need A Mobile Website

Google dropped the announcement last month on a new algorithm update that targets non-responsive websites. If your website is not mobile-friendly, you definitely have some work to do.

If there is one thing that gets the internet in a roar, it’s a Google update. SEOs scream from the mountaintops. Webmasters cringe in fear. Businesses everywhere tremble with the thought of a viscous Google smackdown.

So, now that the entire internet is full of questions on what to expect when the update starts rolling out April 21st, we’ve put together a walkthrough on how to check if your site will be affected, along with some common questions you might have about this new algo update.

Google’s Move To Make Mobile A Reality

Google wants your website to be mobile.

It makes absolute sense. Mobile use continues to soar. Local search is huge. Everyone has a smartphone. The web should be ready for mobile.

It’s definitely time for outdated websites to make the switch.

Mobile usability isn’t a new ranking factor. It’s been part of the algo for some time. But now it will have a greater impact when it comes to how websites are ranked when searching on mobile. The update is expected to impact 40% of websites — a much more significant number than both the Panda and Penguin updates that were first introduced in 2011 and 2012.

This latest update was announced on the Google Webmaster Blog back in February, with the update scheduled to roll out incrementally over a week or so starting April 21st.

That deadline is getting closer.

Google Mobile Update Optimization Checklist

If you are not sure how Google will evaluate your website, this checklist will give you a straightforward way to approach making sure your website will not be affected.

Step #1: Visit Google’s Mobile-Friendly Test Tool.

If your site checks out you should see a message like the one below:

Google Mobile-Friendly Test Tool

If your site checks out, Google gives you the thumbs up.


If your website is not mobile-friendly, you’ll get a screen like this:

Google Mobile Update 2015

If your site doesn’t pass the test, you’ll get this message.

Step #2: Hopefully your site gets a clean bill of health.

Remember: the Google Mobile-Friendly Test Tool may or may not come back with an accurate view of your website.

If you can see your website fine on your phone, but it’s broken when viewed through the tool, Googlebot is having trouble crawling your page and rendering elements correctly. This is more than likely an issue with your robots.txt file.

Step #3: Fix potential issues with robots.txt.

If this is the case, you are going to want to make sure that you are not blocking any resources like CSS, Javascript or image files that are being blocked by robots.txt.

Fix the issue and run the test again to verify that you’re getting the thumbs up from Google.

If not, you’re going to need to optimize your site for mobile. This can be simple or complicated depending on how your site has been designed.

WordPress users will have it the easiest. The fastest and least costly recommendation to sidestep the Google Mobile Update would be to move to a responsive theme. You can find a wide variety of responsive themes on sites like Themeforest and WooThemes.

Step #4: Check how much mobile users your site is receiving.

You should have Google Analytics installed on your website. If you haven’t already installed G.A., you can follow these instructions.

If you already have Analytics installed, do the following:

  • Log in to your Google Analytics account
  • Go to your site dashboard under the “Reporting” tab
  • Go to Audience > Mobile > Overview

You won’t be able to fix mobile usability issues here, but what this data will show you is how much mobile traffic your site is receiving. If you can’t make your site mobile-friendly before the deadline, you’ll at least be able to get an idea of the impact Google’s Mobile Update will have on your traffic. Obviously, if you are receiving a lot of mobile traffic, you need to make the switch as soon as possible.

Google Mobile Update Frequently Asked Questions

Below is a running list of frequently asked questions concerning Google’s mobile-friendly algorithm update.

Note: We’ll be updating the FAQs as more questions come in.

When is the Google Mobile Update?

Google announced the start date will begin on April 21st, 2015 and will roll out incrementally over a few days to a week.

Will the Google Mobile Update affect my site if it is not mobile-friendly?

Yes. Google has mentioned that this particular update will affect up to 40% of websites — much more than even Panda or Penguin. Fortunately, this update ONLY affects mobile search listings. Desktop search listings and rankings should not be affected.

Does the Google Mobile Update affect desktop keyword rankings and search results?

No. Only mobile search results should be impacted with this update.

Are sites graded on a scale or simply labeled mobile-friendly or not?

No fancy variables on this one. Google is using a Yes/No classification.

What factors are considered to classify a site as “mobile optimized”?

Your site is either responsive or not. There’s no middle ground. That being said, Google does use mobile usability as a ranking factor. Small fonts, small buttons, and links too close to click is what you should look out for. As a rule of thumb, if it’s clunky for you, it’s not the best experience for your visitors either.

When I run my site through the mobile-friendly test why does the screenshot look different than it would on a regular phone?

Your robots.txt file is probably blocking Googlebot from crawling resources (CSS, Javascript, images) on your site. Make sure to edit your robots.txt to fix the issue, then test your website again with the tool.

Marketing jack-of-all-trades, ascendant wordsmith, and self-proclaimed World’s Best Dog Dad. I write about SEO, social media and content marketing.