March 10, 2015 | Sarah Danks
Unless you’re living under a rock (or up in the Rockies without Wifi…which actually sounds like a nice little vacation), by now you’ve heard of Google’s game-changing ranking factor change: they’re now requiring websites to be responsive.
Okay, Google’s not requiring that you build your site with responsive web design; they’re just not going to show it in their mobile SERPs if it isn’t mobile-friendly. Which is kinda the same thing.
So, what are you going to do about this new turn of events? First things first — do you know whether or not your site’s responsive?
Is My Website Already Responsive/Mobile-Friendly?
If you’ve hired out your web design and you’re not sure whether it’s built responsively, Google’s got a nice mobile-friendly testing tool that’ll tell you quickly. Just plug in your domain and within seconds your site will be analyzed.
There’s no grading system on this test, your website either is or isn’t friendly. Here’s what it looks like when you pass:
Of course, since that’s a major part of our business here at ThinkSEM (building responsive websites and landing pages), I’d sure HOPE we’d pass the mobile-friendly test!
If this is your result to the mobile-friendly test, huzzah! Not only did you pass the class, you can keep on keepin’ on. Well done.
Even if your site doesn’t pass, thankfully Google not only shows you what’s wrong; they also tell you what you can do to improve your non-mobile-friendly website. Those who fail will see this type of result:
In this case, there’s a lot of work to be done — especially if you’re not the web developer. If you hired someone else to build your website, you’ll probably have to jump through some hoops to get it up to speed.
But, while Google IS dictating (sort of) how your site should be built, they’re definitely not cagey about HOW to make it friendly to all visitors. They’re certainly not going to create the responsive code for you; they’ll lead you through a series of steps and at least get you started on the right path.
Making Your Site Mobile-Friendly
Upon failing the responsive test, you can choose between a few options to help make your site mobile-friendly. But first, you need to determine how it was built so you know which option to choose for fixing it.
Determining how your website was built:
Google offers suggestions to make your website responsive depending on three ways it could’ve been built:
They’re saying you either:
- Built your site in a content management system (CMS) using a template
- Hired a web designer/developer (or company) to build your website for you
- Designed, developed and coded the entire site from the ground up yourself
(This isn’t to say these are the only ways websites get built; there are a myriad of variations — these are merely the choices Google offers you.)
You know how your site was built…now what?
CMS + theme (or template)
If your site was built using a CMS and a template, it’s probably the easiest fix (of the three options) to make it responsive — you merely have to choose a mobile-friendly theme. For example, if you built the site in WordPress, you can learn all about responsive themes, then choose one you like.
Once your mobile-friendly theme is installed, you’re good to go! Well, you also need to make sure you’re not using superfluous plugins that might slow down your site (slow load times have been a no-no in Google’s eyes for a long time).
Coded from scratch
First of all, regardless of whether your website is responsive or not, kudos to you for designing and developing it yourself. I’m not code-savvy so this entire field baffles me! However, the fact remains: your site isn’t mobile-friendly and it needs to be. Fret not, my developer friend — there’s hope! You already know how to code…
…and that’s the hard part; now you just need to learn responsive code.There are many places you can learn how to code responsive websites; our designer/developer recommends Team Treehouse as a good resource.
And that leaves us with the last — but certainly not least — option:
Hired a web designer/developer
If you paid someone — whether a contractor or web company — to build your website, then this is most assuredly the hardest option for taking a website into the mobile-friendly realm. Why is it hard? Because you don’t have control over all the aspects yourself, and you have to trust the person — or company — you hired to do the right thing.
If a contractor coded your site, you’ll have to ensure this person knows how to build a responsive site in order to remain a client. If s/he does know how, then at least you only have to work with one person and the process will (probably) be quick. If, however, the person doesn’t know how to code for mobile-friendly design, it’s time to move on.
If a web design company built your website, it’s the same thing: they either know or don’t know how to create a mobile-friendly site. If they do know how to build responsive sites, then yes, you’ll have to pay more money to bring your site into the web of today, but at least you don’t have to find a new marketing partner.
That being said, depending on how big said web company is, it could take a long time for them to re-code your website. And what if they don’t know how to build responsive sites? Then you’re once again moving on to find someone who does.
Is Mobile Traffic Important to Your Bottom Line?
Odds are it is, even if you don’t think it is.
If you know you get leads/sales/conversions from mobile traffic, then hopefully your mobile-friendly web design is already under way…
…because by the end of April 2015, if your site’s not responsive, you’ll no longer be receiving visibility in mobile SERPs.
And, if you’re one of those business owners who scoffs at the importance of mobile traffic, think again. Last year mobile Internet usage finally passed desktop. Still not convinced this will affect your business? Still think the data is merely “kids” accessing social media profiles?
Think again: there’s a lot of good data in this Search Engine Watch article, especially this information about the serious impact mobile usage has on B2B:
“Executives lead the way in mobile adoption, validating the theory that digital assets for a business or brand must serve target audiences 24/7, and not just during business hours. Mobile is preferred over the PC for executives conducting research during and after office hours, according to the IDG Global Mobile Survey 2014.”
So you might want to check your Analytics data — odds are even if you don’t think you need to optimize for mobile traffic, it’s already visiting your site. But, you could lose that traffic soon.
However your website was built, it’s time to make it mobile-friendly — so invest in responsive web design.