SEO Factor: Mobile-Friendly Websites

Gary Illyes of Google spoke at SMX West March 4th, 2015 on the subject of whether mobile-friendliness affects Google ranking or not. His answer was perhaps a bit evasive, in that he did state “responsive design does not have a ranking benefit.” However, responsive design is not the only way to achieve  mobile-friendly websites.

All Pages Should Be Mobile-Friendly
I have personally witnessed webpages gain on desktop Google searches, on average, 5 ranking positions when the only thing that changed on the page was whether or not that page was mobile-friendly. Clearly, it is a ranking factor for desktops. What will happen with this upcoming update to mobile searches? I don’t think I want to be the one to find out my client’s websites fall drastically on mobile searches if they’ve had good position to-date, but aren’t mobile-friendly yet. An entire site will not be considered mobile-friendly until ALL pages in the site are mobile-friendly.

Is a Website Mobile-Friendly?
Here's a tool from Google to test whether or not a website is mobile-friendly: Mobile-Friendly Test. There are also browser plug-ins that allow you to test responsive design on a mobile device, however that's not the only way to have a mobile-friendly site.
Chrome: Chrome Extensions
Firefox: Built in to the Developer Tools: Responsive Design View
Internet Explorer: F12 (Developer Tools) Developer Tools: Emulation
Safari: Download Midwinter Extension

Mobile-Friendly Types
There are three different types of mobile-friendly sites.

  • Separate URLs: Creating a separate set of website files set to the standard width of a mobile device
    • For example: Desktop version: Mobile version: or
  • Dynamic Serving: Uses a different version of HTML based on device types
  • Responsive: Creating your desktop version using css written to conform to different browser widths
    • Generally, areas within the page move around and resize according to the width of the browser screen

For more information on the differences between mobile sites, please visit: Mobile-SEO by Google

Important Date
April 21, 2015 was the date Google claimed was “a very important date”, but would not verify that the mobile-friendly algorithm change would happen on that date. On the subject, Gary did say to just “have them ready by the 21st and it will be good.” He also mentioned, no other changes are scheduled for that date as far as he knows. The confirmation of this upcoming "deadline" can be found in Google's own Webmaster Central Blog.

BIG Change
In order to pass the mobile friendly test, your site must allow Googlebot to crawl both CSS & javascript to pass. No more blocking those elements!

Ready, set – go make some changes, quick!

Mobile-Friendly Websites are a must by April 21st. Contact us today to see how we can help.

Information in this article credited to:

About the author: Lisa Thompson

Lisa is a partner, and SEO Manager at In Cart Marketing. Following search engine algorithms and website-coding is her passion. Follow her on Twitter: @TeamLisaSEM