As you may know, as of April 21 2015 Google will rank mobile-friendly websites higher than those that are not mobile-friendly. If you’re not sure whether you pass the mobile-friendly test, Google provides a link where you can simply enter your site URL, and see some general results. If not mobile-friendly, Google offers some advice but often these pieces of advice can’t be directly applied to a WordPress site, although it does go some way to explain general design principals of making a WordPress site more mobile-friendly.
For WordPress users or administrators, what does this mean? Will the world, or more importantly your Google rank, suddenly come crashing down in just a couple of days time? As someone who your clients are looking to for answers, how do you make your WordPress site mobile-friendly for Google?
What will happen with the new Google update
There has been a lot of talk about the new Google update and what it means for various website owners, or administrators. This would be a good place to start for your clients, and it’s only a short read.
With Google broadcasting to the world back in late February that they are going to be making changes to their search algorithm, and thereby improving the ranking for mobile-friendly websites (and lowering the ranking for those that are not) there is something about the whole thing that has not been publicised well, in my opinion.
The changes are being made to searches made from mobile devices. From what I can tell, only mobile devices. From their official blog:
Starting April 21, we will be expanding our use of mobile-friendliness as a ranking signal. This change will affect mobile searches in all languages worldwide and will have a significant impact in our search results. Consequently, users will find it easier to get relevant, high quality search results that are optimized for their devices.
No talk here, or anywhere else in the blog, about search results for desktop users. Then again, why take the risk that this won’t be applied across all search results, across all manner of devices?
The hour is nearly upon us and if you want to make your WordPress site mobile-friendly, it’s time to get cracking. But what can realistically be achieved in such a short time frame?
Making your WordPress site mobile friendly
If you are currently using or managing a theme that is not responsive, and therefore not mobile-friendly, the options available to you to become mobile-friendly between now and when Google apply their update are frankly limited.
Converting a theme over to become more mobile-friendly can become a lengthy process, especially as it will mostly fall to third party theme developers / theme benders to convert them for you (as opposed to the original theme creator). This presents a learning curve for the third party, and when the knowledge about a theme and how it hangs together is less than intimate, chances are that things will be missed, render incorrectly, and take longer than the couple of days we have to convert.
Alternatively, another theme can be used that is already mobile-friendly, however you might not wish to altogether change theme (often also meaning changing how your brand appears) and bending a theme to better suit the design you currently have also takes time and having good working knowledge of the responsive theme again becomes vital. However, there are many themes out there in the WordPress world that are now responsive, and do a very good job.
Many of these are also free, such as the Responsive theme by CyberChimps, which is a great little theme, light on the add-ons, and is something I have been using as a base for many child theme creations over the last few years.
CyberChimps has also more recently released Responsive II, an HTML5 compliant, mobile-first WordPress theme (also free). As yet I haven’t used this theme for any projects but am aiming to use it to update this very site.
However, with the clock ticking ever so loudly you might just be looking for a solution that protects your Google ranking and makes you appear mobile-friendly in the short term while looking into longer term solutions. This is where a WordPress plugin called WPtouch can help.
This plugin basically does what it says on the box, and that is converts your website to a mobile-friendly version, mostly in a rather basic way. But basic might be all that there is time left for, and if your site wasn’t mobile-friendly before, it’s doubtful that the WPtouch mobile plugin will make it appear any worse on phones or small tablets than it currently does. Certainly there seems no harm in trying.
The options available to you in the plugin are quite limited when it comes to styling, although several options are available to you as far as offering a different site title, what the landing page will be, whether to use a newer version of jQuery or not, and also a nifty Display Mode that allows you to turn the plugin on for Administrators only, so you can preview how things look prior to going live.
Once installed, activated and configured, you can re-visit the Google Mobile-Friendly test site and try your URL again. Hopefully you get a much better result!