Put Mobile First: Ensuring Your Website Passes Google’s Mobile Check
[By Karen Geier]
In the beginning of search engine optimization, the most important things to ensure high position on Google and other search engine’s first pages were links into your website, correct keywords, and content that closely matched your keywords.
Since then, Google has evolved. Recently, Google announced changes to its PageRank system, which puts mobile first. If you don’t know how compatible your website is on mobile devices, you need to review your site for both functionality and content.
Why Put Mobile First
There is a growing group of people who only access the internet though a non-computer device (a tablet or a mobile phone) and these devices treat websites differently. Yes, it is possible to pinch and pull websites to get to the content you need to access, but filling out forms or e-commerce are almost impossible on some mobile devices. It’s important to understand this behavioral change, as it can greatly affect what people do once they visit your site for the first time.
You can and will also be penalized in PageRank in the future for not having a mobile-friendly site, so it’s best to get your compliance in place now.
What Changes You Need To Make For Mobile First
The most important change is that elements containing Flash should be removed from your site as soon as you can. This is because Flash doesn’t render on Apple devices, and the content of Flash isn’t easily machine-readable. For example, if you own a restaurant that has an animated into, you need to come up with a different plan immediately.
Images automatically render smaller on mobile devices, but resizing your images to fit the screen size is very important. If an image is too small, it might as well not be there. If it’s too big, it will likely make it harder for visitors to read. Your developer can add some code to make your images automatically resize to fit the size and shape of your screen (portrait or landscape orientation), which will help your content be more accessible and readable without pinching or scrolling.
One of the best design features of the last five years on the web is the use of nonstandard fonts on websites. Unfortunately, when resized, or laid out in a smaller or differently shaped screen, these fonts can become confusing or in some cases unreadable. Make sure that you have an override in your code that selects a readable font or assigns it a correct size for the screen.
Laying out your website for a computer screen is one of the steps you need to take when designing your site, but you also need to consider how that same site will look on smaller screens with less available white space. You need to take into account vertical and horizontal layouts and how they will make for different text breakpoints in your content. Consider laying out your mobile site with “content blocks”: small, focused sections that will not change the feel or tone of your writing but will make for a quick, unencumbered read for your customers.
Another important layout consideration is information hierarchy. On your website, everything a customer needs is at a glance, but on mobile, a person might be connecting to your company to get vital information such as address, telephone number, and hours. This information should be in a mobile-only content block that resides at the top of your page. You should make this information contextual and clickable. If you have an address, link it to a map. If you have a telephone number, make it clickable to call from the website without an intermediary step.
Google is placing a premium on content quality. Quality content is content that delivers on the promise you made in your SEO keywords and descriptions. If you are a florist, keep your content useful and on florist-related points for best success with Google’s algorithm. Eliminate any old content tricks of placing exhaustive keyword lists at the bottom of the page.
Checking Your Site
Google has created a simple tool to be able to check your site’s compliance with Google’s new rules for mobile content. Included is an exhaustive set of guidelines to help you navigate your mobile transition.
Mobile browsing is no longer the future. With Google’s mandate to score websites based on mobile compatibility, you can’t afford to ignore mobile. When you’re reviewing your current website, you should also look at it using as many diverse devices as you can find, to see trends in where the layout lets the majority of readers down. Use this as starting point to rethinking the way your pages are laid out for your redesign.