Mobile searches now make up 50% of all Internet searches and will actually overtake desktop searches in 2015. If your website is not mobile-friendly, you will be unable to reach a large segment of your target market.
To check if your Google sees your site as mobile-friendly, use their free Mobile-Friendly Test Tool. If your site isn’t mobile-friendly, Google will provide a few suggestions right on the page. For more detailed help, check out their Webmaster’s Mobile Guide.
If your website is built on WordPress and uses a commercially available theme that is being kept updated by the developers, likely your site is already mobile-friendly and you don’t need to take any action at this time.
However, if your WordPress theme is not mobile-friendly, you’ll either need to update it to a version that is, or rebuild the design of your site using a mobile-friendly theme.
3 reasons your theme might NOT be mobile-friendly because:
Your web designer custom coded a theme for you.
Most custom developers don’t touch the theme after the client pays the final invoice, so assume your theme needs to be upgraded if your site was built more than 2 years ago. Contact your developer to see if adding mobile-friendly elements would be possible and economically feasible.
You haven’t purchased a new license for your premium/paid theme.
When you purchase a pre-designed theme, that purchase generally only includes updates for a year. After that, you have to repurchase the theme in order to obtain the newest version.
Some of the biggest theme developers — StudioPress is one that I am aware of — do not have plans to update their older themes, while small one-person shops have kept their themes continuously updated. To find out if your theme has been updated, contact the developer. If an update is available, upgrading your theme is the least expensive and fastest way to make your site mobile-friendly, even if you have to purchase a new license.
The theme is old.
If you installed your theme prior to 2013 and have not updated since then, it is likely not mobile-friendly. Around 2013, new tools became available that let developers integrate mobile-friendly elements into standard desktop web design instead of having to build an entire separate website for mobile users.
If your site isn’t mobile friendly, consider using a commercially available theme that is kept updated by the developers.
Using a commercially available theme doesn’t mean you are stuck with an out-of-the-box design. You can customize the design to suit your needs. Just follow one of these two strategies:
1. Choose a theme that lets you customize it without hacking into the code. I love the free Weaver II theme for many reasons including the fact that can update the theme without undoing any customizations. Keeping the theme updated keeps out hackers in addition to keeping your site current on all of the latest changes in technology.
2. Build a child theme. Sometimes, you must hack into the code of a theme in order to create the design you want. In this case, instead of creating a entirely new theme, create a child theme. You leave the main functions of the theme with the “main” or parent theme, but move the design elements to the child theme. In this way, you can make updates to the parent theme without affecting the code in the child theme.
You might think your site is mobile friendly, but it still might not appear in Google’s mobile search.
Two reasons your mobile-friendly site might not appear in Google’s mobile search:
1. The site is blocked by robots.txt. This little bit of code tells web crawlers what parts — if any — of your site that they can crawl. Web developers often block sites they are developing via robots.txt to keep the site out of search until it is done. You can also use robot.txt to block individual pages that you don’t want to appear in search, like download pages for example.
If Google’s robots can’t crawl your site, it can’t determine whether it is mobile-friendly or not. And without knowing for sure that it is, your site will simply be blocked. Unblock the site from Googlebot and you should appear in mobile search.
2. You have a separate mobile version of your site. About 5 years ago, the standard practice for serving the emerging mobile market was to create a separate mobile version of each website. This way, you could control precisely how the content displayed for each user. Now, however, these two version of your site are going to be treated as if they are separate websites when it comes to search rankings. So, if you have a separate mobile site, it isn’t that it is being blocked from mobile search, but that it’s position in the search rankings has fallen dramatically. The fix is to build good SEO for the mobile site as well as the desktop version.
If your business has been ignoring your mobile profile, these changes to search may come as quite a shock. However, being forced to adjust your site to better serve a growing mobile user base will have long-term benefits to your business.
Although mobile search has been steadily growing in popularity, there have been many web developers slow to adjust their practices and build sites that work on mobile. Google’s using this dramatic change to mobile search results to force these developers to get with the times. Although painful in the short term, the result will be a better search experience for all mobile users.