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With 1.91 billion smartphone users worldwide and online retail sales made on mobile devices expected to reach 370 billion dollars by 2017, it’s no wonder Google is adapting its algorithms to increase the search ranking of mobile-friendly websites. Whether you use the internet for your business, blog, or just for browsing, this change affects everyone. In this post, we’ll cover the basics of what this change means and what you can do to prepare so your website can still easily be found by customers on their mobile devices.

Google’s Algorithm Change

Google announced in a recent blog post that they will expand their use of mobile-friendliness as a ranking signal beginning on April 21, 2015. Their reason for doing this is to make it easier for users to “get relevant, high quality search results that are optimized for their devices.” While this is definitely a good thing for people using smartphones and tablets to browse the web, you may be asking yourself what this change could mean for your blog or business. Here’s the breakdown.

Google’s algorithm is a set of rules it uses to rank websites based on their relevance to the keywords in a search. For example, one rule is that the keyword being searched appears in the webpage title. Another rule is that the website contains images with “alt text relevant to the search. This process of modifying your website to improve its visibility in search results is called search engine optimization or SEO. For a basic introduction to this topic visit Google’s SEO Starter Guide. Mobile-friendliness is the newest rule which will be added to Google’s algorithm.

Mobile-friendliness means that a website is easy-to-use on a mobile device such as a smartphone or tablet

For years, most websites were built to be viewed on a computer monitor only. Today when these sites are viewed using a smartphone or tablet the text is often too small to read and the links or buttons are so close together they become difficult to use with a touchscreen. A mobile-friendly website is either designed specifically for mobile screens or is responsive, meaning it will automatically adjust to fit any screen size.

Here is an example of how optimizing your website for mobile devices makes it easier for people to use:

As you can see, the version of the website shown on the right would be much easier to navigate on a touchscreen. Websites like this will be ranked higher on mobile searches starting April 21st.

How To Test Your Website

Google has made it easy for you to find out how your website ranks according to their new standards. Simply visit their Mobile-Friendly Test Page and enter the URL of the website you want to test.

Once you’ve entered in the URL, Google will run the test and provide immediate feedback on your site. Common problems include your text being too small, links being too close together, or the mobile viewport not being set.. Google will also suggest what you can do to improve your website and even has guides on how to make it more mobile-friendly based on which software you use, including WordPress, Joomla!, Blogger, Drupal, and more.

It’s time to go mobile-friendly

If your website fails Google’s mobile-friendly test, you might consider making slight changes or rebuilding it all together. With more people using mobile devices to purchase products or get information online every day, making sure you are optimizing your site for mobile users is the best investment you can make in your website design. Ready to make your website mobile-friendly? Contact our design team and schedule a free consultation with a friendly design expert today.

Tips from a Bluehost Developer

We asked one of our web developers to answer some FAQs about mobile-friendly website design. We hope you find these helpful as you evaluate your website’s mobile-friendliness and how you can improve it.

Q. What are some of the best tools out there for making a mobile-friendly website?
A. As a developer, the tools available for creating mobile websites are better than ever. In particular, Google’s Chrome browser has an extensive set of built-in tools that make designing responsive and mobile-friendly websites much simpler for developers. The “device mode” tool makes it easy to see what your website looks like on various devices, and it can even simulate network speeds so you can see how long it takes your site to load on older 2G networks.

Q. How can I adjust my website to make it mobile-friendly?
A. Honestly, this is not trivial. It’s much simpler to start with a mobile website and tweak that to make it more appropriate for desktop browsers (more on this later). If you already have a non-responsive website, it may be more cost-effective to start from scratch with a new responsive base. The alternative requires a fair amount of coding, and there is no “quick fix” to get around that.

Q. What practices should I avoid when building my website?
A. If you’re just starting out creating a new website, it’s best to consider mobile users first. You should do this for two reasons. First, mobile websites are usually functionally simpler to create and use. Second, a pure mobile website is generally quite usable in a full desktop browser, but the reverse — a non-responsive website in a mobile browser — is not usually true. By focusing on mobile users first and then building on full desktop functionality afterward, you’ll end up with a great-looking website that works in more browsers, in less time.

Q. Is it better to have a mobile version of my site, make my site responsive, or use an app? 
A. Whether or not you’re just starting to target mobile users, you really should make your site responsive. It’s the biggest bang for your buck, and, once your site is responsive, any new content you add to your site will automatically look great to desktop and mobile users alike. Once your site is responsive, then you can consider building an app, but a responsive site should be your first priority.

Q.How can I make my website responsive?

A. You can either pick an already-built template that is responsive, or you can develop your own template, from the ground up, with responsive principles in mind. If you already have a non-responsive site, rather than try to force that to be responsive, you may instead want to create a separate mobile-only version of your site; this is a reasonable strategy for targeting mobile users until, sometime down the road, you get a chance to redesign your site to be responsive. Then you will be able to go back to maintaining one version of your website that automatically works for both mobile and desktop users, which is the reason why having a responsive website is preferable long-term.

Points to Remember

A mobile-friendly website is good for business. Over 1.91 billion people use their mobile devices (smartphones, tablets, ipads, etc.) to get online. That number will reach 2 billion by 2016.

Google’s new algorithm will begin affecting all Google searches made on mobile devices on April 21, 2015.

There are two key ways to make your website mobile-friendly: you can 1) redirect visitors to a mobile version of your existing website or 2) you can rebuild your website so that it is responsive to any screen size.

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