Updating Your Site for Mobile Round 2

You may have heard that Google is stepping up their ‘Mobile’ roll-out, basically completing phase two of their mobile algorithm updates. Meaning if your website isn’t optimized for mobile devices yet now might be a good time to consider it.

So What’s Changed?

A few weeks ago ( April 2016 ) Google announced the following:

“We’ll start rolling out an update to mobile search results that increases the effect of the ranking signal to help our users find even more pages that are relevant and mobile-friendly.

If you’ve already made your site mobile-friendly, you will not be impacted by this update. If you need support with your mobile-friendly site, we recommend checking out the Mobile-Friendly Test and the Webmaster Mobile Guide, both of which provide guidance on how to improve your mobile site.

And remember, the intent of the search query is still a very strong signal — so even if a page with high quality content is not mobile-friendly, it could still rank well if it has great, relevant content.”

According to Google’s John Mueller, these changes are now fully rolled out. The change is supposed to rank mobile friendly pages better on mobile devices.

How Will I Be Affected?

This latest update for the mobile friendly ranking algorithm is targeting page level ‘signals’. It doesn’t affect your entire site but could affect individual pages. If some of your pages haven’t been optimized for mobile they shouldn’t affect pages in your site that have been. In the past many of Google’s algorithm updates affected your entire site, in this case, the update only affects individual pages. Most websites will either be optimized for mobile or not. Not too many websites will have a mixture of both but I’ve seen it happen. Specifically where an old website has been updated but they have certain web pages using tables or catalogs that were too complicated to convert for mobile.

The Good News

For those of you who haven’t embraced the current trends or technologies is that this algorithm update will only affect searches from mobile devices. If you’re website visitors are using a desktop computer, you’re page ranking shouldn’t be affected in the search results.

The Bad News

Mobile is not a trend. It’s here to stay and taking over desktop searches. Google has officially announced that there are now more searches conducted on mobile, than on desktop according to SearchEngineNew ( source ).

Huh and How?

If your a technology Luddite and haven’t yet embraced the future of search, consider this: Searching on mobile devices is SO MUCH EASIER than searching on desktop, why you ask? Just pick up your phone and ask it to search the web for something, most people do now. It’s so much easier to ask Siri to look for something than it is to type it in to a search field, and you can ask a question instead of just using a few words ( if that’s how you’ve been searching ).

So mobile search has surpassed desktop because more and more people are getting on board with mobile and finding better ways to utilized their phones, and it’s much faster and more convenient. Everyone has their phone with them so it’s easier to perform a search. For a desktop search you need to be sitting at a computer, so you’re limited in where and when you can search. With mobile you just whip your phone out, press a button and let Siri do the search for you.

What’s Next?

You can check your web pages right now to see if they pass the Google Mobile-Friendly Test.  Follow this link.

You will need to test each page, but for most of us you’ll be safe testing your home page, and any pages you aren’t too sure about.

If your home page fails, then the rest of your site most likely isn’t mobile friendly.

With this in mind, passing will help your searches from users on mobile devices, and a fail will probably leave you in the dust and only accessible to users on desktop searches.

This doesn’t mean that your site can’t be found or loaded up on a mobile phone or tablet, it just means that when someone is searching for something that your site may have to offer or answer you most likely won’t show up to high in the results, or show up at all.

What if My Site Fails the Mobile-Friendly Test?

It’s time to update. I’ll run you through all the things we do for updating an older site to a mobile friendly version. If you want some help with this we do offer mobile updates ( Site setup and Content Transfer ) of older websites to new mobile friendly sites it’s all part of our Content Transfer Service. What I really wanted to do with this article is share all the things we consider when updating an older website, to something current. And we’ve seen some really out dated sites created over a dozen years ago in FrontPage 2000 using all tables and inline styles, both of which are now considered ‘no-no’s’ for mobility.

So What Do We Do for Updating for Mobile?

Pretty much all mobile updates require the content of your pages be copied into an updated ‘template’ or page or a new ‘template’ applied to your existing web pages if you’re working with a Dynamic Web Template such as Dreamweaver or Expression Web.

There are elements of your old website you’ll want to keep, and elements that will need to be updated. Let’s make a quick list:

Things to keep:

  • page names
  • folder names
  • meta title
  • meta keyword
  • meta description
  • google analytics
  • content
    • headings, paragraphs, lists, links, inline images
  • misc scripts being used for content
  • hyperlinks / menus

Basically these are the elements of your web page that make up the content of a web search. If you were to strip everything in your page out that is not important to search engines, this is what you would need to still have a legible web page, a human readable page.

Things to update:

  • convert tables to divs
  • convert table columns and rows to css columns
  • replace JavaScript / flash menu’s with text/css based menu’s
  • remove flash
  • remove inline widths and heights from images
  • resize images to fit page
  • optimize the images for the web
  • update images to be mobile responsive ( add img-responsive class so images will scale )
  • remove inline font styles
  • wrap content in correct HTML tags ( paragraph, heading )
  • add links to phone numbers for mobile users
  • move JavaScript to bottom of page
  • minify JavaScript and CSS files
  • consolidate CSS files

Either way your existing pages will need to be prepped and cleaned. This is the short list. Let’s take a look at the process start to finish to see how and in what order we work with.

Site Update First Steps

First thing we do is pick out a mobile friendly template which we can use / modify to work for the client. We choose a Bootstrap template as Bootstrap is designed for mobile period.

Site Clean Up

Now we take a look at the existing website. Typically what we’ll do is make a copy of the site, then proceed to clean up the code by running each page through an HTML cleaner. This helps to remove any outdated styles, tables or HTML that is no longer valid. My favorite tool is HTML Cleaner.  Simple but effective. You can select which tags to remove, clean or change. We do not want to alter the content, just what’s wrapped around it. Now we have basically stripped away any old HTML, and removed anything that could hinder or harm the mobile view.

We’ll take just the code that is withing the <body> tag. Content within the <head> will not be used unless it’s a meta tag or script that is required such as Google Analytics.

We also remove any flash and JavaScript menu’s ( such as the old FrontPage navigation ).

We’ll remove any heights and widths from images to allow them scale, and ADD the responsive image class of ( class=”img-responsive” ). Sometimes this also requires resizing the images in an image editor IF the image had not been resized for the page already.

And finally we’ll upload any images to TinyPNG. Here we can fully optimize each image for use on the web, and in most cases cut the file sizes of each image by as much as 70% or more.

So now we have a nice clean ‘shell’ that we can work with. Content that can now be used within a mobile website or mobile website template.

Now For the Updates

Now that we have the content ready to go we can create our framework to copy the content into. We’ll take the new template and re-created each page, using the exact same page names. We’ll create a blank template page for each page in the site.

Then we’ll copy in the meta tags, and scripts from the old site.

Once we’ve done that we’ll copy in the content and with each page try to align the content as best suits the new site, and the old site. If you had two columns in the old site, we’ll try to retain that where it makes sense, provided it will also make sense for mobile users to do so. Basically we will copy the clean content into each new template page and arrange the content so it displays the best for both desktop and mobile users. Some old web page layouts and alignments no longer make sense for newer devices so the content needs to be adjusted somewhat in it’s presentation so it makes sense to both audiences.

Proper HTML heading tags, and paragraph tags are applied if applicable, and images aligned to the content.

Once all the content has been copied into the new template we can proceed to update the existing ( template ) components such as logo, sliders, menu bars and footer. Most templates include some type of global components for these elements, with our template we use Library Assets ( or include pages ) to make updating the site a bit faster.

Once the entire process is complete we can take it one step further and optimize the CSS and JavaScript for Google PageSpeed by minifying and consolidating the CSS and scripts. This is not something we recommend doing on the working version of the site, just the finished and published version as once you’ve minified and consolidated your files and scripts, it’s darn near impossible to read the code and make further changes. You can ‘unminify’ then ‘re-minify’ but best to have everything in your site as complete as possible.

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