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A lot of web developers and site owners are in a total panic these days about Google's algorithm change relating to favoring mobile-friendly web sites over those not deemed mobile-friendly. Marketing Portland has adjusted about 15 or 20 sites for compliance and, actually, it hasn't proven to be a huge deal. But, if it's a concern for you, read on...

Here's the no-BS version of what to do:

FIRST, you simply need to know what Google currently thinks of your site. Regardless of what a lot of developers may tell you, this is by no means any kind of secret information, nor is it tough to figure out. Just GO HERE now -- links to Google's mobile-friendly testing tool. Pop your web site's URL into the box and hit "Analyze". Then wait a minute or two, and you'll get a pass/fail response. It's sort of like having your car inspected.

If you PASS ...

Well, you're done. Your site is a-okay on this front, according to Google. The funny thing, to me, is that I've seen some truly awful sites pass this test. So, it doesn't actually mean, in real life, that your site is perfectly wonderful on phones or tablets. It merely means that Google's algorithm is okay with it. In other words, Google is judging compliance with various aspects they deem important such as navigability, not attractiveness.

Many of our clients DO ask us to put special effort into responsive design and specific user experiences for phones, tablets, etc. To be honest, we've done full-on responsive design web sites for about 3 years now, so this new Google proclamation hasn't hit Marketing Portland very hard. But, let's go on, as I want to talk about the next thing...

If you FAIL ...

Ok, so Google's program doesn't find your site mobile-friendly. What exactly does this mean? Does it mean your site will disappear from the search engines entirely? Does it mean other sites will now appear above yours in the organic results? Is it fixable? How much will it cost?

Well, like anything else online, there are many factors to the answers to those, and I suspect this is where a ton of misinformation and opinion comes into play. Much of it, though, can likely be answered yourself. For example, what has your normal traffic level been over the past period, and what is it now? Similarly, what has your positioning been in the past for your key phrases, and what is it now? (You may need some assistance analyzing those things, and that's okay too.) Finally, if your site an ecommerce site, have you seen a decrease in sales? Obviously, that would be the strongest indicator of all. (And if that's the case, then you should have a good idea of what it will cost NOT to fix the issue.

Fixing the Issues...

Of course, if your site has failed, my opinion is that you really should fix it if organic traffic is at all important to you. (Believe it or not, this isn't always important to all site owners. After all, some fairly huge sites are NOT responsive, and generate a ton of their own traffic.) I'd recommend doing the fixes, though, even if all performance indicators are still fine for your site. Fortunately, Google gives failed sites fairly decent instructions on what needs to be addressed in order to be deemed mobile-friendly. In nearly all cases, the fix breaks down like this:

The tweak-style fixes: For many (even those with existing "responsive" sites), Google's "fail" notice simply means some fairly simple CSS tweaks. On responsive sites we did in the past that still failed, Google said thigns like some of the links were too close together, too small, or that a DIV tag was too wide ... fairly easy stuff commonly flagged by Google. For any responsive site we had that failed, the fix was usually only about an hour's work or so. So, again, this isn't always a gigantic expensive issue, and certainly merits fixing. Of course, that time estimate reflects tweaking sites we built in the first place. Tweaking sites built by others might well take longer, depending on the CSS and site structure.

The "time for a redesign" fix: If your site's fairly old (say, 3+ years since your last redesign), it could be a lot more time-intensive to fix, and may require a larger investment back into the site. Sometimes we can do more extensive CSS work to such sites and get them to pass. Other times, it may simply be time for a redesign -- or perhaps taking the current design and porting it to a responsive scenario rather than a non-responsive one (also a possibility).

Step one, though, in all cases, is to run your site through the Google Mobile-Friendly test site linked to above. See what that says first and, if you fail and want to take action on it, give us a call.

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