[highlight color=”yellow”]On April 21st, Google will roll out a new algorithm update focused on a big aspect of user experience these days – mobile-friendliness.[/highlight]
Will this update be as dramatic as Panda?
No, probably not.
But it may impact how your content appears throughout the search results whenever someone uses their mobile device to search Google.
Here are eight things you can do to make your blog more mobile-friendly …
1. A responsive theme
If you’re not already using a responsive theme, there’s a good chance your site isn’t mobile-friendly. If that’s the case, your content may slide down the ranks of the Google results pages.
Looking for something free?
Filter the WordPress theme directory to display themes with responsive design by entering “responsive” in the search bar. This should cut down the time it takes to find a responsive theme you actually like.
Ready for a premium WordPress theme?
ThemeForest is my favorite place for premium themes, because it offers a lot of information about the theme, the designers, and more. You can even jump into the discussion and ask questions before you buy. This is where I found the theme powering Creativeblogger.
Filter your search to display only themes matching “Responsive WordPress,” as the library contains HTML, email, and other templates that won’t work with WordPress.
Check out the themes I’ve written about.
[highlight color=”red”]Tip: If you buy a theme, make certain it’s a WordPress theme.[/highlight]
2. The mobile-friendly test
Once you have a responsive theme installed and activated, take the mobile-friendly test by Google Webmaster Tools to discover how mobile-friendly Google considers your site.
If you pass, Google thinks your site is mobile-friendly!
Want to see what your site looks like on a variety of mobile devices?
Use MobileTest.me to view and interact with your website on a variety of mobile devices.
If you don’t pass, there are a few things you can do to investigate what’s going on before reaching out for help.
3. PageSpeed insights
Another cool test from Google, PageSpeed Insights helps you discover the issues responsible for slowing down the time it takes for your pages to load, as well as issues preventing your site from being considered mobile-friendly.
The test will provide two tabs of results, one for desktop and for mobile devices.
Scroll down to the section about user experience – this contains the issues, if any, impacting your mobile-friendliness. This will reveal what you can work on to improve your site. And don’t worry, your site will probably be considered mobile-friendly even if you have a few issues.
4. Responsive social media buttons
After switching to a responsive theme, you may notice your social buttons look bad. Whether they’re stacked, squished, off-screen, or otherwise displayed poorly, you need to address the problem quickly before Google considers it an issue impacting your user experience negatively.
You have two options.
You can remove them from your website entirely, sacrificing the chance of gaining traffic and followers from the social web, or you can add a set of responsive or mobile social buttons to your site.
I started using AddThis, because they offer a selection of tools specifically designed and coded to look great and work well on mobile devices.
This preserves both your user experience and the chance to gain traffic and followers from the social web.
5. Responsive Sign Up forms
A lot of bloggers made the decision to hold off on updating their website with a responsive theme, because of how their sign up forms failed to display properly on mobile devices while using a responsive theme.
Back then, this was probably the smarter choice because a single sign up form could destroy the user experience of visiting the site.
Today, we’re using mobile devices to access the web more than our desktops (if we even have one of those), so it’s crucial you integrate responsive sign up forms into your website.
AWeber offers responsive sign up forms out of the box, so you can enjoy building your email list without annoying your visitors. Though I manage my email list and messages with AWeber, I prefer to use OptInSkin for my actual sign up forms. OptInSkin is a premium WordPress plugin that gives you the option to customize just about every aspect of your sign up forms, including everything from the color, shape, text, and even special effects. Read more about OptInSkin.
6. Responsive popups
Infamous for their disruption, famous for their conversion – pop-ups are no different from other sign up forms in the sense that they act as one of the most important tools on your site, but can easily annoy your visitor if you’re not careful.
If you’re going to use pop-ups, be sure you’re using a service offering responsive pop-up design so your website isn’t penalized by Google for dishing visitors such an annoying experience.
Both AWeber and OptInSkin provide the option to deploy pop-up sign up forms, and both are responsive.
I haven’t experimented with pop-up forms yet, but hear they convert like crazy despite their annoying nature. I wonder if a deploying them with a time-delay would help to avoid impacting the experience negatively.
7. A free Cache plugin
Mobile-friendliness is all about user experience, so it’s important your site loads quickly and efficiently. Turning a cache on will help cut down on the time it takes to load your content, as your site will display a cached version of your content, thereby bypassing the need to transfer data from your host’s servers.
Cutting down on the time it takes to display content will improve the mobile-friendliness of your site, so be sure to check out the various cache plugins available from the WordPress plugin repository. You’ll see a lot of great things about W3 Total Cache, probably the most powerful of the lot, but it’s one of the most difficult plugins to integrate in my opinion. I’m testing WP Super Cache and WP Fastest Cache at the moment, and I’m liking what I’m seeing …
It takes one to three seconds on average for a site to load its content for a visitor, but this varies depending on a lot of things, like the size of your content. Large images, for example, will take longer.
8. A free image Compression plugin
As mentioned, large images will slow your site down more than anything else, so it’s important to compress them as much as possible.
I’m trying the WP Optimize plugin here at Creativeblogger. It offers some pretty cool features, including automatic watermark application on images.
Fastest Cache also offers some image optimization features but it’s only made available once you upgrade for the premium version.
Now that we’re using our mobile devices to access the web more often than any of our other devices, the time to go responsive is now.
Even if you really love your theme, as I did, you need to make it a priority to update to a theme capable of providing a responsive mobile experience, so you don’t lose your footing in the Google search results. Just put your personal attachment to your theme aside and start looking with an open mind.
I was surprised to find so many awesome themes available from the ThemeForest marketplace. In fact, I took at least ten to twenty themes for a spin when trying to make a decision!
The same applies for plugins offering optimization features – the only way to find the best ones for you is to explore.
Over to you
I’d love to hear what themes, plugins, and other resources you’re considering for your own website – please share your questions, ideas, and experience in the comments section below.