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Does Google Think Your Site Is As Mobile-Friendly as You Do?

In June 2009, Google publicly released their PageSpeed tool, a platform that was originally developed for internal use at Google, to help website owners with usability and speed testing. In January 2014, Google released v2 of the PageSpeed Insights tool. The update came with an increased focus on mobile performance and usability.

Google PageSpeed Results

Of course, it didn't take long for digital marketers, developers and SEO experts to jump on the new release in order to follow best practices and better optimize websites for mobile users. WooRank also recently started using the PageSpeed tool to develop a new Mobile section in reviews, resulting in a much more reliable and up-to-date mobile friendliness check.

So what's the downside? It turns out that even if your site is completely mobile friendly, Google still might not detect it. Why does that matter to you? Because Mobilegeddon is coming, and Google has already given it a name and a date.

The Problem

They're calling it #MobileMadness, and it'll begin rolling out on April 21st. This new algorithm will affect Mobile Search Rankings and will likely cause all non-mobile friendly pages to fall in the mobile search rankings, while giving a boost to those that are well optimized for mobile.  This means that pages not seen as mobile-friendly by Google are likely to see a huge drop in organic mobile traffic.

Although Google PageSpeed Insights is supposedly there to help us check for mobile performance or other usability issues, WooRank found out that neither the PageSpeed extension nor its API emulates GoogleBot or makes use of the robots.txt file.

You can probably guess what comes next. GoogleBot (and GoogleBot alone) will be the one making the final call on whether your website is mobile-friendly. This could make your relationship with #MobileMadness a bit complicated. For example, if there are too many restrictions on your robots.txt file, GoogleBot might not see that it is indeed a mobile-friendly site. If your site checks the user-agent to determine whether to send a visitor to your mobile-friendly version, that can also hinder GoogleBot from picking up on your efforts to optimize for mobile visitors.

When it comes  to mobile configuration, and especially for mobile redirects, there are still a lot of websites that fail to  show the relationship between two URLs by using the rel="canonical" and rel="alternate" elements. Until now, the importance of user-agent detection and redirection to mobile websites has been minimal. However, as of April 21st the impact will become clear, because it will be impossible for GoogleBot to detect that your website "example.com" has redirected to mobile.example.com or example.mobi.

All these exceptions add up to one thing: the potential for a huge drop in mobile traffic to your site.

Our Recommendation

In addition to WooRank, we also recommend that you use another tool from Google to evaluate your site's mobile-friendliness. This tool essentially performs the same usability check as the PageSpeed tool, but emulates GoogleBot. It can ultimately help you check whether there are any important files blocked in your robots.txt that would prevent mobile-friendliness validation. It'll also tell you if you've done a good job of signaling your mobile configuration to search engines.

Google PageSpeed Results

Still to Come

Even though Google just released v2 of their PageSpeed Insights tool, after digging a little deeper into the PageSpeed online platform using Chrome Developer tools we found that Google might already be testing v3 of the tool.

PageSpeed Insights

We're crossing our fingers and hoping that the next version will align with the other Google tools and emulate GoogleBot to give users a more accurate answer about their site's mobile friendliness.

Over and out,

Jean-Louis