Last fall Google started hinting that they would change their algorithm so that mobile friendly sites would rank better. We realized that we had some older sites with outdated themes, so we took on the task of upgrading our sites. We made sure to use updated, responsive themes on our sites and finally got around to converting our last HTML site to WordPress.
This was a good start to getting our sites mobile friendly, but it wasn’t enough. WordPress themes aren’t the only structural part of a site that impact mobile friendliness. You have to audit your sites code and double check to make sure sites pass the mobile friendly test. Luckily Google has provided a testing tool where webmasters can check sites for mobile friendliness.
Even though I spent the time to upgrade to the mobile friendly, responsive themes some of my sites didn’t pass the test. I custom code a lot of pages, so I discovered a number of issues on various sites. Some of things that I found:
- Certain plugins I used to list categories had poor CSS that called for width over 320 pixels
- CSS code that I wrote wasn’t compliant.
- Old adsense code still existed. I needed to change to the current asynchronous code
- Poorly written 3rd party HTML and PHP hacks and widgets
As an example, we had an investment site that had a block of code from another web site that showed current stock quotes. It was a helpful little widget, but it was built in an iframe with a fixed width and it did not pass the mobile test. We replaced the code with something better and more flexible. The code we used was probably 5 years old but we never thought twice about it.
Digging further with the Google Mobile Usability Testing Tool
This tool can be a little confusing. If you enter a site URL and get a message that the site is not mobile friendly, Google will explain what causes the issue. Sometimes it is hard to decipher the explanation, so they they will link to Google page speed insights. When you click the link to Google Page Speed Insights, you may not see errors. GPSI can’t always see scripts if they are hidden by robots.txt. It’s very common for WordPress to block scripts, especially in the wp-includes folder. So this can leave you scratching your head. There are several other problems that can occur in a similar fashion, making it even more confusing.
Alan Bleiweiss has a fantastic article discussing this issue in depth. It’s a must read in my opinion. I was stuck trying to figure out a problem on one of my sites and Alan’s perspective helped me figure it out. See the article here: Flawed Google Mobile Usability Test Results
If you are lucky you can use these tips and determine what is causing your issue, you can modify your site and try testing it again.
What If I Can’t Figure Out Why My WordPress Site isn’t Mobile Friendly?
After looking at everything carefully, I had one more site that stumped me. I wasn’t sure what to do. I did some research and realized there is a plugin for WordPress called WPTouch. I decided to give it a try. I installed it on the site, went into their settings and configured a few items and tested again. It didn’t work.. but I kept looking at settings and realized that you could set a different top menu. Ah ha!!! My top menu was kinda big with a long drop down and the mobility test thought the links were too long and too close to together. So I created a new menu in Appearance > Menus. I just used the top 5 categories and called the menu “Mobile.” I then went back to the WP Touch screen and selected my new mobile menu. I refreshed my cache (good idea between tests) and bam.. My site was now mobile friendly.
Does that Mean I’m Done?
Unfortunately not. There are a few more things you should do to make sure your site(s) are ready. If you got a site home page to pass the test that is a great start and the hard part is likely over. But you have to realize that Google has claimed that this algorithm will work on a page by page basis. That means, you better make sure all your pages work.
Well… here lies another problem…
I have sites with thousands of pages. In a perfect world, I find a tool that can quickly check for mobile friendliness of thousands of pages. Right now, I cannot find a tool that performs this task. And there is no way I can test all of my pages using Google’s tool as it would take hundreds of hours.
So my current solution was to write down the structure of one of my sites:
- 1 home page
- 22 custom pages including ones using OptimizePress custom pages
- custom category descriptions and these are searchable (I block categories from search on most of my sites ) based off category.php
- select tags that I’ve written custom tag descriptions and these are searchable pages based off tag.php
- I have blog posts with a sidebar but they are all based off of post.php.
- I have search page, but I block it in robots.txt
So I need to check home page, all 22 of my custom pages, 1 category page, 1 tag page and 1 blog post. Chances are good that if all these items look good on the mobile test, then the vast majority of my pages will be OK. Yes, its possible I have some custom code on some blog posts, which are the vast majority of my pages. I’ll probably review some of the pages and then look for ones that I remember having something different. I remember some pages I posted a video or an infographic, so I need to check those. And if I know of specific posts that rank well, I will check those pages too. I know my category and tag page just have extra text to describe the types of post in each of these archives.
One last thing step. Just to be really safe, I will look at Google Analytics and get a list of my top landing pages for each of my sites and I will manually test those. These are the pages likely to be indexed differently and I don’t want pages that produce traffic to drop out of search results.
I’ll repeat this process on all my sites. It will take several hours but I should ensure that the vast majority most of my pages are mobile friendly and hopefully that will help our sites rank better when this update is launched on April 21st.
If you have any other tips or suggestions please share with us!!