Here are my rantings on internet marketing. I've given some good advice in some articles, and others, well. Take a look for yourself.
The short answer is, they will soon. Google has announced that mobile friendly sites will receive a boost. Probably going to be like when they said https will be a ranking signal, but let's keep an open mind. On April 21st – April 22nd for us Australians – Google will expand on their mobile friendly ranking signal, and rank websites that have taken human interaction into account higher. All part of the ultimate goal of improving the search engine result pages.
Whilst many people already use methods such as a redirect using PHP, or use @media queries within their CSS, it's important to run through the checks anyway. Google knows that mobile phone usage is on the rise and most SEO's will agree, since they're looking at User-Agents and Analytics information on a regular basis. I'm not going to bang on about what everyone else is by rehashing information in this link. Instead I'm going scratch the surface on how to make your website mobile friendly and hopefully point you in the right direction.
This is nothing special and you'll probably kick yourself if you paid thousands of dollars for someone to do this for you. You will need to set some things up first and if you're thinking “WTF” then get someone that knows some code and cPanel to help you out.
The first thing you're going to need to do is develop a mobile phone version of your website. There are a tonne to free themes out there if you're short on cash. If you can afford $20 on a decent theme, then check out this marketplace (link removed).
The second thing you're going to need to do is create a sub-domain on your server where the mobile site will live. I usually like the old fashion ‘m' or ‘mobile' but really you can call it what you want. For those that don't know what I mean by sub-domain, it's a word followed by a dot in your URL. So if my domain is nickcavarretta.com.au and I wanted to create a mobile sub-domain, I would call it ‘m' and it would look like m.nickcavarretta.com.au.
The final thing you're going to need is this nifty little tool called mobile_detect, and I'll give you one guess what that does. Throw the mobile_detect.php file into your main folder – not your subdomain – and then add in this code to your header file:
$detect = new Mobile_Detect;
if ( $detect->isMobile() ) header("location: http://mobile.yourdomain.com.au/");
Once everything is done, you will need create a mobile sitemap and add your new URL – sub-domain – into webmaster tools. You can read all about that on the Google Webmaster developers page in regards to Mobile SEO based on separate URLs.
This website you're on right now – my website – uses this method, and it's all about @media queries. It is part of the CSS level 3, and it's amazing. I'm going to refer to w3 schools here for a further explanation of media queries, even though I run the risk of a receiving abusive emails from nerds.
There are two ways you can go about this, and they both work the same. It really depends on what you prefer and how big your site is.
The most common way is to have a separate CSS file for each version and add a meta link in your header.
base.css would hold common CSS classes and id's that are used across the board, where the others contain classes and id's that are specific to that screen size.
Another method is throwing it all into your style.css – or whatever you call it – file where everything is just combed into one file. If you have a lot of styling, you might not want to do this since site speed is also a ranking factor and one seconds makes a difference. I won't give an example of a CSS file here, because the best way is to see it is look at the source code from a boilerplate file. Check this one out, you'll get a good idea on what to do from the comments.
Using media queries does take a lot of time, where I've developed a mobile site and used a PHP redirect all in the same day; it didn't have much content. I hope this article will at least point you in the right direction, or the very least not get ripped off by your developer.
An excellent tool to check to see if your website is currently mobile friendly is from Google and you'll get a message like this if you pass.
If you pass, then give yourself a pat on the back, if not then you might want to contact me to get that fixed.
I'm a digital marketing and SEO consultant based in Sydney, Australia. I drink a lot of coffee and spend most of my time working on clients websites and improving their search visibility.