Does Google Really Penalize Websites that Aren't Mobile Friendly?

By Top 10 Staff

Mobile website toolIn response to the rapid rise of Web traffic from mobile devices, Google announced in February that it would tweak its search algorithm to benefit Web users browsing from their phones. The updated search engine would do this by giving a higher ranking to websites designed to work well on smaller screens, while lowering the visibility of sites that don’t pass Google’s mobile-friendly test.

Since this marked such a drastic shift in how Google Search works on mobile devices, the company announced the changes two months prior to implementing them, allowing webmasters ample time to make their sites more mobile friendly. Then, on April 21—a day dubbed “Mobilegeddon” by bloggers in the search industry—Google flipped the switch and the rejiggered algorithm went live.

Despite the two months’ notice, “Mobilegeddon” still had webmasters around the world scrambling to make Google mobile-friendly websites. Should you be worried? Find out if your site is affected by the new search criteria, and, if so, what you can do now to make sure you don’t miss out on any more traffic.

Google Sites Mobile Friendly

What Sites and Searches Are Affected?

Google’s algorithm changes affect all websites in all languages, but only in searches originating from mobile phones. Web searches from traditional desktop and laptop computers, and even from iPads and other tablets, are not influenced by this update. Also, the revised algorithm analyzes websites on a page-by-page basis, so if some pages of your site are more mobile-friendly than others, those pages can still rank well in mobile searches.

What Makes a Site Mobile-Friendly?

According to Google, sites are mobile-friendly based on a few different factors. These include the software used to create the site, the ease with which links can be tapped upon, and the readability of text without zooming or horizontal scrolling.

Finding out if your website meets these criteria is easy. Grab a mobile phone and do a Google Search for your site, and if a link to your homepage appears with a “Mobile Friendly” tag next to it, you’re good to go. Or, if you don’t have a phone nearby, you can use the Google mobile test tool to see if the search engine deems your site to be phone friendly.

What If Your Site Isn’t Mobile Friendly?

It’s not the end of the world if your site doesn’t pass the Google mobile website test. Google will not remove your listing from its search results, nor will your ranking in desktop searches suffer. And fortunately for you, the algorithm works in a way that allows webmasters to alter their sites at any time in an effort to improve their visibility in mobile searches. So if you think it’s important for people to be able to find your site from their phones, it’s definitely in your best interest to update it as soon as possible.

You can use a top website builder to create a new site from scratch, or you can try to upgrade your web design with a new template that’s inherently mobile friendly. No matter which route you choose, Google has a handy guide to avoiding common mistakes on mobile websites, and encourages everyone who owns or manages a website to optimize search visibility by using Google Webmaster Tools.

Next Steps

The mobile-friendliness of your website is only one factor in determining your ranking in Google Search, but it is a big factor. By having a mobile-friendly website, you’ll attract more online traffic and have happier website visitors. If you need more help getting started with mobile websites, check out Google’s comprehensive guide, full of tips and best practices.

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