The Google Mobile Update and making WordPress websites responsive – don’t panic

Last Updated on November 19, 2020

There’s been a lot of comment online about Google’s update to its search engine algorithm (the formula it uses to rank websites in search). Every few years Google does a major update to the algorithm – no doubt making changes that are aligned with its overall goal of providing its users with the best search results possible , while also ‘not being evil’ (see for Google’s business philosophy).

Now with some of the recent coverage in the media, one might think non-mobile sites will be disappearing in all of the search engine results overnight – which would be a) not useful to Google’s users and b) kind of evil!. But if you read the official Google blog about the changes it’s making see – the changes will only affect ‘mobile searches’. Which makes total sense. If you are on a mobile device (smart phone) it’s incredibly hard to view and read a website that’s not mobile friendly.

So if your site is not mobile-friendly, it’s still going to be found in searches run on desktops and tablets and if it’s highly relevant to a search phrase it will still rank well.

And! Even if your site is not mobile-friendly it could still rank well in mobile searches according to Google’s official FAQ on the subject:

“While the mobile-friendly change is important, we still use a variety of signals to rank search results. 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 high if it has great content for the query”.

So it always comes back Google’s business philosophies and intent – don’t be evil and deliver the best possible results for its users. So it would be nonsensical for Google to remove highly relevant non-mobile websites from its mobile search.

However… if two sites are on a par with relevance to a search phrase run in a mobile search, then I’d have to assume the mobile friendly site is going to out rank the non mobile friendly site.

So website owners can no long ignore the inevitable march towards mobile-everything. At Web Matters we saw the trend coming years ago, and all of the sites we build are mobile friendly in that they are ‘responsive’. That means we build one website on one domain name (not a mobile sub-domain), and use a coding technique that changes the layout of the website for mobile devices – so everyone can access the same content regardless of what device they are using to search the web.

Making a WordPress Website Mobile Friendly

There are a number of ways to make a WordPress website mobile friendly:

  1. Re-code the WordPress theme it uses to make it adapt to the size of the device accessing it – this is done by adding ‘media queries’ the the CSS code of the theme.
  2. Buy an off-the-shelf WordPress theme that is mobile friendly and install it to your website
  3. Add a WordPress plugin that detects mobile phones and automatically serves users up a modified version of the site. This may see like a cheap and attractive option but is really only a ‘band aid’ until a responsive theme can be developed. That’s because a lot of these plugins return a very basic design.

How to find out if Google thinks your website is mobile friendly

It’s easy, you can simply add your website address to Google’s Mobile-Friendly Test and Google will let you know if the website passes the test.

So as you can see, it’s not quite the “Google Armageddon’ many people are calling it. So be very wary of anyone pushing you into making a decision right now this day this hour about going responsive – as some will certainly try to take full advantage of this situation with pressure selling. Anyone that desperate for a sale is not someone you want to work with.

If you have any questions about responsive design or the WordPress plugins available email Michelle on [email protected]

Scroll to Top