mistakes-mobile

As we mentioned in a recent post, Google’s mobile ranking algorithm will be released April 21, 2015 and making sure your website is mobile-friendly is more important than ever.

If you haven’t already started started putting mobile best practices into action, it’s time to get moving.

You need to be prepared for this update.

According to Google’s Zineb Ait Bahajji from the Webmaster Trends team, the upcoming algorithm is one of the biggest updates we’ve seen to date. In terms of the amount of people affected, the new algorithm will have more of an impact than either Panda or Penguin.

In today’s post we’ll go some of the most common mistakes webmasters make when it comes to taking their websites mobile.

Google’s Advice to Site Owners About Going Mobile

To make your life easier, Google has created a series of guides to walk you though the process of going mobile-friendly, even telling us what mistakes to avoid.

Let’s take a look at the top mistakes Google says they see people making:

Blocked JavaScript, CSS, and image files

If Googlebot can’t access your website’s JavaScript, CSS, and image files, it’s harder for Google to index your website. This problem usually occurs if your site’s robots.txt file disallows crawling of these assets, and it can directly impact how well you do in rankings.

The Fix: You can use the “Fetch as Google” feature in Google Webmaster tools to see how Googlebot sees and renders your content. You can also test your robots.txt with Testomato to make sure crawling is allowed and test your mobile pages with the Mobile-Friendly Test.

This will help you identify any indexing issues.

To test your robots.txt file, add the following rule to your robots.txt file test configuration:

rule1

Unplayable content

We all like videos – they’re fun and interactive. But it’s really annoying when a video is unavailable!

Certain types of videos that require Flash are not supported on mobile devices and it provides users with a poor user experience when they see content that they can’t play.

The Fix: Use HTML5 standard tags for animation and embed video that’s playable across all devices. Google Web Designer makes it easy to create engaging HTML5-based animation that is accessible from any device.

Faulty redirects 

When you redirect users to separate mobile URLs, you can run into problems if a desktop URL sends users to the wrong mobile URL.

Here are some examples of common faulty redirects Google sees:

  • Companies sending mobile visitors to their homepage regardless of what page they clicked on.
  • URLs that don’t send users to the equivalent mobile URL, and instead, send them to a general page they weren’t looking for.
  • Redirecting for some mobile devices and not others. For example, Android users are redirected to mobile pages, but iOS or Windows users are not.

The Fix: Use responsive web design to automatically serve the same content to both desktop and mobile users. You can also use Smartphone Crawl Errors in Webmaster Tools to see if any faulty redirects were detected.

Mobile-only 404s

Some websites have a problem where a certain page is available to desktop users, while the same page will show up as a 404 error on mobile devices. Make sure that each page has an equivalent mobile URL, where users can be redirected instead of ending up with a 404 page.

The Fix: You can use the Smartphone Crawl Errors report and check the smartphone tab to see if any URLs have 404 errors. You should also, as we mentioned above, try to use responsive design whenever possible to serve the same content to users, regardless of what device they’re on.

App download interstitials

Some websites like to promote their native apps to mobile website visitors. However, if you’re not careful, this can actually end up causing indexing issues, since it disrupts the visitor’s usage of your website.

Check out the image from Google below for a great example of the problem:

The Fix: Instead of a large app advertisement, use a simple app inline with the page’s content. Google also suggests using Smart App Banners for Safari.

Irrelevant cross-links

A common practice is to link desktop and mobile URLs. However, many companies make the mistake of linking to irrelevant URLs, such as linking mobile website page about a product to a homepage on desktop.

The Fix: Always check that your links point to the most relevant (or identical) pages.

Slow mobile pages

This probably goes without saying, but make sure your pages load quickly. If your pages load slowly, this can become frustrating to users who are waiting a long time when they do a search on the go.

The Fix: Use Google’s PageSpeed Insights to discover if your page has problems that could be slowing it down. If you are using one of Testomato’s paid subscription plans, you can also check your response time straight from your account to see how long it takes for your website to load.

image: Markus Spiske

Are you ready for the mobile algorithm update this April?

We’d love to hear what you’re doing to prepare in the comments below! You can also find us on Facebook or Twitter.