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 Add3.com’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
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
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:
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!
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
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.
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.
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.
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!