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Google Officially Announces That Mobile-ready Sites Will Rank Higher

Alert the elders! Stop the presses! Google has announced an update to their algorithm!

As of the 21st April 2015, Google will be handsomely rewarding sites that are optimised for mobile. With the constant rise in popularity of mobile search, as well as mobile commerce, Google wants to ensure that they are directing their users to sites that will work well on their devices. Remember that ultimately Google wants to provide the best user experience for their searchers, as that's how they stay as the world's top search engine. These changes will affect every country currently using Google, and will apply to results in all languages. If your site is not mobile-ready, you will be penalised. Don't worry though, we've made it easy by constructing a guide of how you can respond to these changes before D-day!
What is responsive design?
Responsive design is the process of creating a single website that has the ability to adjust its layout, based on the size and orientation of the user's display as well as the browser it is being viewed on.
It is now the best practice method to render websites on various platforms. This is done through media queries. These media queries detect the resolution of the browser and can detect which platform or resolution it is being viewed on, and elements are then optimised automatically.
You can get an expert to design you a responsive site or, in some cases, make your existing site responsive. Alternatively, you can use existing themes that are responsive. For a blogging platform, Wordpress has responsive themes, while Shopify is the best option for your online store as they ensure that all of their themes are responsive.
Does your website work well on mobile?
While every business is going to be unique, there are a few 'umbrella actionables' that will apply to anyone with an online presence.
Use Google's mobile-friendly test tool
By putting your URL into the field, Google's tool will analyse your site and determine whether or not they consider it to be mobile-friendly or not. As an example, I've put our URL in, and found that Google has confirmed it is mobile-ready.
Generate a mobile usability report
If you're already logged into Webmaster Tools, all you have to do is click on this link and a personalised report will be generated on how usable your site is on mobile devices.
Any errors that are mentioned can be clicked on. Doing so will open a pop-up that lists easy-to-follow steps you can take to address the issue. Here's an example of the steps listed for when touch elements are too close – meaning that users could accidentally click on buttons they didn't intend to because of poor mobile design.
Brush up on mobile optimisation
Google has compiled a great guide to attaining a mobile-friendly website, full of handy tips and easy-to-follow advice. Your first port of call should be the 'Get Started' page, which has a table of different scenarios increasing in complexity. From here you can begin your voyage into the brilliant world of mobile optimisation!
Get the spanner out
Now that you have all of that information under your belt, it's time to start fixing any issues your site may have. Here are some solutions to common problems:
Address your site's bounce rate
Bounce rate is a percentage measure of how many users 'bounce' from your site. A bounce is when somebody visits your page then presses the back button. This is a clear indication that the page has not met their needs. Pages with a high bounce rate are a problem because, firstly, you are losing visitors, and secondly, Google will move pages with high bounce rates down the rankings. It's pretty logical really – if the searcher wasn't finding what they were looking for on your site, Google is going to consider this as a factor of how high you should rank.
Keep image sizes low
Often images on a page can be compressed to make their file sizes smaller without losing much quality. Something a lot of people don't realise is that images often take up most of the page's size. Because of this, making sure that you optimise your images for the web is one of the most effective ways that you can significantly reduce the size of existing pages and keep the size of new ones to a minimum. Essentially, the less bytes your page is, the faster the user's browser can load it.
You can use Google PageSpeed to speed up your site and reduce page load time, which will be expanded upon in the next point, but you can also use it to ensure all your images are optimised. PageSpeed is open source and automatically applies all of the web performance best practices to your site.
Optimise your page speeds
There are many factors that can affect the speed at which your pages load, including the size of your images, explained above. In addition to image size, something that can cause pages to load slowly is code files being too large. Large CSS, HTML and Javascript files can be seriously detrimental to the loading speed of a site. If you don't know much about code, that's fine, there are programs you can use to compress the files without having to go through and edit it manually. There are even online programs you can use; all you have to do is paste in your code to a box on the site and it will automatically compress it. It does this for all CSS, HTML and Javascript files.
Another way that you can optimise your page speeds is by distributing your site's content among different servers. If your server can't produce all of your content at a high speed, you could consider employing a content distribution network (CDN) which is, simply put, a small network of servers that all hold your site's content. This way, the heavy load of loading your pages is distributed among all of them, which in turn increases your site speed. It's true what they say – a problem shared is a problem halved!
Analyse your traffic
You should look at where your traffic is coming from to determine how much effort you put into making your site mobile-ready. You may be surprised at just how many of your users are visiting from mobile or tablet devices. If this is the case, consider how you could make the user experience better for these people.
To conclude...