Tonight at #Blogchat (4-12-2015) we will be discussing the changes that Google is about to roll out that are aimed at rewarding sites that are Mobile Friendly. These changes will start to take affect on 4-21-2015, or Tuesday of next week.
Here’s where you can read about what these changes mean on Google’s webmaster blog. In short, it seems that the main change will be that sites/blogs that google deems to be ‘mobile-friendly’ will rank higher than similar sites/blogs that are not mobile-friendly in google’s eyes.
You can use this site from google to check and see if google sees your blog as being mobile-friendly.
First, what does ‘mobile-friendly’ mean anyway? In short, it means that your blog adapts to whatever device being used to view it, to present an adequate viewing experience. For example, have you ever tried to view a blog on a smartphone and it looks like a smaller version of the entire website? And you have to expand the text with your fingers to read any of it? That’s an example of a blog that’s NOT mobile-friendly. This is also called having a responsive design/theme/template for your blog. It means your blog adapts to the device you are using to present text in a way that can be easily read.
Second, is google going to penalize my blog starting on 4-21-2015 if it’s not mobile-friendly? Well, yes and no. I think it’s more accurate to say this latest update from Google is more about rewarding mobile-friendly blogs that it is about penalizing ones that aren’t. If you go now to your smartphone and do a google search, you’ll see that when you look at the results, some of the sites will have MOBILE FRIENDLY under their entry. This is telling you that since you are on a mobile device, that these sites will give you an optimal viewing experience. So the odds are that you will click a mobile-friendly result moreso than one that isn’t. Additionally, Google has said that starting on 4-21-2015, it will begin using whether a site is mobile-friendly or not as one of its ‘ranking signals’. Meaning that Google will start to consider if a site is mobile-friendly or not as one of the criteria when it ranks sites for results. Will this only apply for search results on mobile devices, or all devices? I’m not sure, maybe someone could chime in?
What are your options if your blog is NOT mobile-friendly?
If your blog is NOT mobile-friendly and you want to make it so, then you will want to either switch to a responsive theme, or make some alteration to your existing theme/site to make it responsive.
The first thing I would do is go to your Google Analytics and see how much of your blog’s traffic is currently coming from mobile devices. For my blog, about 33% of my site’s traffic is from mobile. That number is too big to ignore, so over the weekend I made some tweaks to my theme (Thesis) to make it responsive, and mobile-friendly in Google’s eyes. If your blog is only getting 5% of its traffic from mobile devices, then you might decide to wait and see how your traffic changes on 4-21-2015 (if it does at all) before you make any changes.
Before changing themes, I would check to see if there are any options for making your existing theme responsive. For example, I am running Thesis 1.8.6 here, and I found out there IS a way to make this theme responsive. I did so by adding this responsive skin (so if you have Thesis 1.8.x, you can use it to make your blog responsive). I would google your theme and see if there are any options for making it responsive.
If you do decide to change themes (and your blog is a self-hosted WordPress blog), keep in mind that WordPress 4.0 came with the Twenty-Fifteen theme, which is a responsive theme. It’s a very simple and no-frills theme, but switching to it should make your blog mobile-friendly and ready for Google’s upcoming changes.
Also, Copyblogger has a nice write-up on what this change could mean for your blog.
So join us tonight at 8pm Central at #blogchat to discuss these changes and how to get your blog ready! If you haven’t joined #blogchat before, here’s what it’s all about.