Google’s Recent Mobile Friendly Algorithm Update
Over 50% of people now search on mobile devices, so no-one can afford to ignore this issue.
Even some apparently mobile-friendly websites fail these tests. Is yours one of them?
Google and Bing take this very seriously. Seriously enough to provide simple tools for you to check your website. Google’s recent update penalises websites that aren’t mobile friendly. For searchers using using a smartphone or tablet, it will reduce your page rank. If your landing pages aren’t mobile-friendly, it may stop displaying your ads on mobiles.
Take five minutes and use these three simple tools to check if your website is losing business for you. Best of all, they’re free!
The Three Tools
Nobody wants to visit a website that takes ages to load, or that they can’t see properly when they get there. Check your competitors’ sites (and your web designer’s :o), too: make sure you stay one or two steps ahead…
- Here’s Google’s mobile friendly web page testing tool. Your web page must pass this test. However, I have seen false positive results, so use tool number three, too.
- Google also helps fund the Web Page Speed Test, at www.webpagetest.org. Your web page should become visible within four or five seconds, tops. You’ll lose viewers – and potential customers – if it doesn’t.
- Tool 3 is your own Common Sense: take a look at your web page on a smartphone – but maybe not your own! Explained below.
Have a go now. If you have any questions, I’ve added explanations below. Neither of the first two tests is definitive, so make sure you use the third as well. The speed test needs a little thought, so maybe read that bit, even if you don’t read the rest.
Tool 1: Google’s Mobile Friendly Test
Type your home page URL into this Google tool, click Analyze, and wait a few minutes for it to check your site. You’ll see your page in a mobile phone, like this, if your page is mobile friendly, or “Awesome”, as Google describes it.
Or try Bing’s Mobile Friendly Test, if you prefer. Take care to paste your URL into the lower of the two search fields as the top one performs an Internet search. Caught me out the first time I used it :o)
2double7 is a local taxi firm and they have a BlueTree website. All BlueTree sites (well, those less than a few years old) are mobile friendly. We take steps to make sure of it during the build process.
Try 2double7’s by copy/pasting this URL into the tool www.2double7.co.uk.
If want to you try ours, remember it’s encrypted (that’s another story) so you may need to enter the whole URL, https://www.bluetree.co.uk.
If your website isn’t mobile friendly, you’ll get a different result. I picked a local, Portishead, non-mobile-friendly website at random. I won’t say who’s it is :o).
Suffice to say, it’s not a BlueTree site.
If you use a CMS, you could maybe help by making the text bigger. However, if you get a result like this, you need to talk to your web designer pretty soon if you want to stop losing 50% or more of your visitors.
Tool 2: Web Page Speed Test
Since writing this post, Google has published more evidence of how slow mobile downloads impact usability and viewer satisfaction.
This is the web page speed test tool. Here are a few things to think about before using it.
Speed Test Controls
- Test Location. Select a server near where your website is hosted. For us that’s UK, and any UK selection will do. You may find your website is hosted overseas somewhere, so check with your ISP. If it’s hosted outside the UK, the page download speed will be slower. Even though bits and bytes travel at the speed of light, the further away your host is, the more switching computers there are between you and your visitors.
Update: I’ve since noticed that, sometimes, no UK test centres are listed. If this happens, just chose the nearest, or try again in a few days time. Location makes a difference, but only a small one.
- Select Browser. The browser choice affects the speed with which your page is “rendered” so it makes a small difference. Bear in mind that phones work at about one third the speed of a recent laptop, so the structure and coding of your web page are much more important than the browser you select.
- Next click on Advanced Settings.
- Connection. This is the speed of Internet access that’ll be used for your test. The slowest UK mobile phone service is 3G. Speed varies with provider, device, and signal strength. Even if your own connection is faster, select one of the 3G connections to see what your average visitor will see.
- Number of tests to run. Results vary, so we need to run several to get a fair reading. Choose an odd number, because the tool selects the median value, or middle result. You need an odd number to get one of them in the middle. The more runs, the more representative the result. The maximum is 9 in the free version.
- Repeat view. Web browsers store web pages locally to speed up repeat views. This avoids having to load pages again if a visitor comes back, saving time and bandwidth. I usually check “first view only” as this is the test that represents a first-time visitor. If a visitor returns, they must want something, so they’ll wait longer anyway.
- Capture video. Check this box to see a movie of your web page loading. It’s worth looking at the video. One site I checked showed a load speed in excess of 25 seconds, but it began to display after six.
- Keep test private. The website keeps all results for a while, so you, and others can see them. Check this box if you don’t want your results public. You can still see them.
- Label is optional. It allows you to identify a particular test later. Take a look at the test history tab when you’re through, and you’ll see the reason for it.
- Now click the yellow START TEST button. Your test may be queued and you’ll see how many there are in front of yours. The test will take a while, and the screen will refresh after each iteration. You don’t need to watch it, just keep your browser open while you’re doing something else.
Speed Test Results
To keep your visitors happiest, the “Start Render” time should be less than four or five seconds. That’s when things start to happen in earnest, and your visitor sees something.
This is 2double7’s result. The start render time is just over three seconds, whilst the whole page loads in just under six. For 3G, that’s very good for any page, especially good for a big page like this.
A red or orange box, top right, shows improvements your web designer can make. Green A is perfect, F is fail.
If you select a slow connection, such as Slow 3G, the First Byte Time may be orange or red. This is because it includes the time to make first contact with the server. It depends, in part, on the speed of your network. All you or your web designer can do about it is to choose a good ISP to host your site, and locate it in the UK.
Your web designer can set HTTP Keep Alive, which maintains the connection, once made, for the page load duration. It should be green A. Every time the connection breaks, your visitors’ browsers must incur the First Byte Time again.
Compress Transfer is a server-side setting, and WebPageTest.org doesn’t always notice it. If your page has a red F here, check it again using this HTTP Compression Tester, also free. If that reports all Ok, then it is OK.
BlueTree CMS does Compress Images automatically when you upload them, so they can’t be compressed any further. You may still trigger the dreaded red F. It’s worth asking your webmaster (BlueTree included) if you don’t get a green A here.
On a BlueTree website, Cache Static Content will usually show the red F, By caching content locally, your visitor will see your web page faster on subsequent visits. Problem is, should you update your page, something that’s easy and frequent with BlueTree CMS, your visitor will see the old version and not the update. Lets’s face it, who ever thinks to refresh their cache? Your pages should load so fast that you don’t need to worry about caching them.
The X, to the right, indicates the site doesn’t use CDN, or a Content Delivery Network. Multinational organisations ensure fast delivery by using servers located in each country. Remember earlier, when you chose the country in which your website is hosted? 2double7 serves a local market, so they don’t need to worry about this. There’s no CDN code on 2double7’s website.
How to View Speed test Results
Go to the median run (it was run 5 for this example) and click on “Watch video” to see what a real visitor will see. Download the video to send to your web designer if you’re not 100% happy.
Tool 3: Common Sense
Look at your web page on a mobile phone. It sounds dead obvious but do it anyway, and borrow other people’s phones.
- Beware of caching. Web browsers keep a local copy of recently-viewed pages in a “Cache”. Next time you visit, the page is displayed more quickly, from the cache. This why the speed test offers first and repeat view options. To get a true result for a first-time visitor, ignore the first result and refresh the page. Or ask friends to look on their phones, so long as they haven’t looked at your website before.
- You may get a false positive result from the mobile-friendly test. The tool rated this site mobile-friendly, but only checked the Cookie warning. This page isn’t mobile friendly.
- If a big photograph occupies the top half of your page, that’s all you’ll see on a smartphone. Not everyone will bother to scroll down to your your message.
- Some web pages contain movies, or cycling photographs, at the top of the page. These look very nice on a laptop, but may be all your visitors see on mobile. How many will wait around to see the whole show and get your message?
- Make sure it looks the same on different phone brands, especially Android and Apple. Many businesses use Windows or Blackberry phones, so if that’s your target market…
What To Do If Your Website Isn’t Mobile Friendly
Send the movie your website designer and ask for a quote. Or, if you’d like to change to a BlueTree website, get in touch, or leave a comment below. Our ethical pricing policy means you may find it costs less than fixing your current one!