Add3 – Digital Marketing Agency with offices in Seattle & Portland

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Just like most sites out there – Google Webmaster Tools started telling us that our site had mobile usability issues back in early January. Before I took a dive into the issues, I couldn’t wrap my head around why. Our site seemed to work pretty well on mobile.

As it turns out – our site was mobile friendly, we just had to let Google see it.

So here’s what I learned as we worked on our site’s mobile-friendliness. Hopefully my journey will keep you from facepalming and headdesking all day and night leading up to #MobileGeddon on April 21.

Use the Right Tool for the Right Job

Google has a great “mobile friendly” test tool. It works really well and has plenty of information. However, when we first got an email from Webmaster Tools about issues with’s “mobile usability”, we went on a wild goose-chase.

We tried interpreting the rather obtuse and unhelpful information from Google Webmaster Tools and resolving issues that way.

We looked at the Page Speed Insights tool, which helped quite a bit and we fixed several issues, but we could never quite get over the hump and get the “mobile friendly” label despite getting a good score.

But even then we kept getting weird mixed signals where Page Speed Insights would give us good marks

add3 page speed insights mobile friendly


But we still wouldn’t pass the Mobile Friendly test




Turns out – there are key differences between the Page Speed Insights Tool and the Mobile Friendly Test Tool

Important!: Allow Google to Crawl Your CSS and JavaScript Files

Our developer/designer was pulling her hair out at this point. She said she didn’t know what else to do. She had read through all the documentation and cleaned up everything she found. Still, we were getting all kinds of errors like “touch elements too close” or “content not sized to viewport”.

Turns out the answer was staring us right in the face all along:


unblock your css and javascript so google can crawl them

I wish I could remember where I saw it so I could link to it, but as I was trying to figure out what was going on I read the following in an article somewhere that went something like this: “you won’t get the “mobile-friendly” label no matter what you do unless you allow Googlebot to crawl your CSS and JavaScript files“. Google even has an entire “avoid common mistakes” page about it. For some reason it just didn’t register for me.

It even says right there on the results page: “this page may appear not mobile-friendly because the robots.txt file may block Googlebot from loading some of the page’s resources.

We made a simple change to the robots.txt file and… BAM!

Add3 Google mobile friendly test



My designer/developer had been fixing the CSS etc to make sure everything displayed correctly. It was all working – we just weren’t letting Googlebot crawl the site fully-rendered with CSS and JavaScript. We simply had take these files out of the “disallow” in our robots.txt file.

IMPORTANT: This may not do the trick for your site… But at least you won’t waste a bunch of time solving problems that don’t exist.

Apply the Lesson to Clients

Once we realized this – we started having clients who were struggling with mobile usability issues make the same change and “allow” Googlebot to crawl their CSS and JavaScript files. For many – this was all they needed to do!  

Pro-Tip: The “Mobile Friendly” Label is a Page-by-Page Designation

This means that even if your home page is “mobile-friendly”, it doesn’t mean your entire site is. You should make sure that your top search entry-pages are all “mobile-friendly” even if your entire site is not.

We still have 32 pages that have mobile usability issues according  to Webmaster Tools. That’s WAY better than the 144 we used to have. These remaining pages are not particularly important to our site’s success in organic search but working on 32 pages with issues is a lot easier than 144.

add3 mobile usability report from Google Webmaster Tools

Pro-Tip: You Should Still Continue to Focus on Page Speed

We still don’t have a perfect score for a lot of our pages on Google’s Page Speed Insights tool. While you don’t have to have a perfect score to pass the “mobile-friendly” test, there is speculation that page/site speed will be a point of emphasis moving forward. It only makes sense that speed is important.

Is The Mobile-Friendly Algorithm Already In Play?

And does it impact desktop searches? Consider the following. The day AFTER getting the “mobile-friendly” label, our rankings shot up for specific keyword phrases I had been targeting for quite some time. Coincidence? Check it out.

add3 rankings improved after getting mobile friendly

All we did in this time-frame was get the “mobile-friendly” designation by allowing Googlebot to crawl the CSS and JS files. Content is the same. Links are the same. Etc. Granted, it’s one example but I have some other evidence across a few sites that supports my theory.


This is going to be a big deal for SEO moving forward. If your site is having mobile-usability issues, first check your robots.txt file to make sure that you are allowing Google bot to crawl your CSS and JavaScript files. Google will tell you whether you’re blocking resources right on the results page of the mobile-friendliness tool. Also – make sure all of your top organic search landing pages are mobile-friendly!

I know that this algorithm update is only supposed to have an impact on mobile searches, but… I think its safe to say that making your site work well across multiple platforms, including mobile, is something Google is taking / will take into account.

I hope my experience helps you out as #MobileGeddon approaches!

Add3 offers SEO services – we can help make your site work for mobile search and any other algorithm update Google throws our way. Contact us!

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Ben Lloyd

About Ben Lloyd

Ben Lloyd serves as Principal at Add3 and manages the agency's Portland office.  Ben got his start in SEM way back in 1999 - when there was like, 15 search engines and Google was barely a thing. Prior to Add3, Ben had founded Amplify Interactive in 2003 (which was acquired by Add3 in 2013), and hasn't looked back since. Ben likes lots of stuff like golf, pinball, food(ie), booze/beer/wine - in that order, etc. Mostly - he likes doing that stuff with his friends. Ben is also co-founder of SEMpdx. Connect with Ben on LinkedIn

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