Put your website to the mobile-friendly test

Posted: 09 Jun 2016

We’re a nation of smartphone users – two thirds of people in the UK (66%) now own one and we spend an average of two hours a day on our phones.

We do everything on them – shopping, banking, and socialising. A survey by Ofcom last year found that 34% of adults check their phone within five minutes of waking up, and 33% of internet users see their mobile as the most important way of getting online.

It’s no surprise, then, that Google has boosted its mobile-friendly algorithm in the past few weeks. Now is the time to make sure your website is taking full advantage of the potential SEO boost. If your site isn’t mobile-friendly, it won’t rank in search results as highly as those which are.


Test your site is mobile-friendly


Use the search engine’s tools for webmasters to check your site is already optimised for mobile phones. Put in the URLs of your pages and check them here: https://www.google.com/webmasters/tools/mobile-friendly/

The results will show you if your site is mobile-friendly, and if you need to do more work on the site. Even mobile-friendly sites might find they have items on pages which are blocked by robots.txt, or the Robots Exclusion Protocol.

This is the text file site webmasters create to tell search engine bots where to crawl and index pages, and where to avoid. If your items are blocked, that means Google’s bots can’t see them properly and can’t take them into account when ranking your page. It’s worth checking with your developer or designer why they told the bots not to index the items, and asking whether they need to change their text.


What can you do to help your site?


Often, blocked items contain Javascript, CSS, or they are image files. To view how the bot sees your page, use the Fetch As Google tool here: https://www.google.com/webmasters/tools/googlebot-fetch?pli=1 – that will help you identify problems and then fix them.

You can also check and test your robots.txt here: https://www.google.com/webmasters/tools/robots-testing-tool

If your videos need Flash, that’s a problem on mobile devices. Google recommends using HTML5 standard tags for animations or video to ensure users can play them on mobiles.

Google also dislikes mobile-only error messages, so if your site doesn’t have a mobile equivalent it’s better to keep viewers on the desktop page.

If you have separate desktop and mobile versions, make sure each desktop page redirects to the correct mobile page, rather than the homepage. Or you could make your site responsive, so that it’s suitable for both desktop and mobile.


Other tips


Google also suggests:

  • Avoiding intrusive overlays – like those for email opt-ins or app advertising – keeping them to a banner at the top of the page.
  • Ensuring your page loads quickly.
  • Setting a correct viewport with your meta tag.
  • Avoiding the use of small text which makes sites hard to read.
  • Avoiding putting elements which are controlled by touch too closely together.


Get more advice on how to maximize your site for smartphones here: https://developers.google.com/webmasters/mobile-sites/