Diagnosing and Correcting the “Content Wider Than Screen” Error from Google Search Console.
Your website needs to be fully responsive to desktop and mobile devices to pass Google’s Core Web Vitals grading system, which by the way, is now part of the ranking algorithm. If your website isn’t completely mobile-friendly you’ll receive alerts and error messages from your Google Search Console account as it monitors your website and checks for mobile usability issues. One of the most common errors website owners struggle with is the “Content wider than screen error”. If you encounter this issue, you’ll want to address this mobile usability error as soon as possible or suffer the potential ranking issues that could follow.
When it comes to optimizing your website for mobile, the process is often page-specific, not site-wide as many other technical SEO elements are. If your pages are not all optimized properly you can expect to receive the content wider than screen error from Google.
Luckily, the “Content wider than screen” alert is pretty easy to fix once you understand what it means and how to diagnose it using the mobile usability report provided within your Google Search Console account (formerly known as Google Webmaster Tools).
What Does “Content Wider Than Screen” Mean?
To check and verify the mobile responsiveness of your web pages you can run them through Google’s Mobile-Friendly Test to diagnose and troubleshoot usability issues across any screen size. This will help you understand how each page performs on mobile browsers, as far as Google is concerned, and the test will also pick up any potential mobile usability issues, such as the “Content wider than screen” error or another common mobile usability error known as “Clickable elements too close together” that focuses on touch elements.
If this error pops up, it means your web pages are not scaling to the right size to match various mobile screens and will result in content being hidden off-screen or a forced horizontal scroll for users. Your content needs to be able to adjust to different mobile screen sizes for easy viewing and user interactions and there should not be any parity between the desktop and mobile experience. If the web page is not the right size, content could be hidden sending up a red flag for Google and providing a subpar experience for your audience.
An error like this can significantly impact the user experience of the page. If your visitors can’t properly see all the content on your page, or even worse, access navigational tools they will surely abandon the page for a competitor site that offers a better experience. This will end up having a negative effect on traffic and search engine rankings through many key SEO metrics like bounce rate, time on site and click-through rate (CTR).
Why Does the Error Appear?
It just takes one page that exceeds the max-width of a mobile device to raise this alert and notify Google, even if most of the pages on your website are fully mobile responsive.
If you do receive the “Content wider than screen” message the first step is figuring out which web page is not performing well, and run that URL through Google’s Mobile-Friendly Test tool. This quick diagnosis will help you figure out exactly what content on the page is causing the “Content wider than screen” issue.
This error occurs when a specific page doesn’t load properly for all screen resolutions and the page content doesn’t respond to the max-width of the user’s screen. The error could be caused by a number of different elements or factors within your website interface design but is most commonly triggered by images that are incorrectly sized or non-responsive to the device’s viewport. Additionally, the CSS media queries might need adjustments to better recognize and respond to specific viewports.
Another tricky, but less common reason for the content wider than screen error to be triggered is related to the crawlability of your website. If your robots.txt or htaccess file blocks the Googlebot from crawling certain elements on your site it may sound the alarm as it can’t load content or pages properly for a true measurement.
This scenario happens when your folder-level, or root-level robots.txt file, or .htaccess file contain errors that prevent the crawler from accessing your website completely.
How to Fix the Content Wider Than Screen Error
In most cases, the “Content wider than screen error” can be diagnosed and fixed very easily and submitted to Google for verification before any serious SEO damage is done. However, ignoring the issue is not the answer for anyone serious about SEO and optimizing the user experience associated with their brand.
Identify the Affected Pages
The first step in resolving the error is diagnosing the problem areas within your website. You will need to identify the specific pages affected and figure out which content or elements are causing the issue. Diagnosis is easily done within your Google Search Console under the mobile usability tab.
You can simply click on the error message in GSC to access a list of URLs that are affected by the “Content wider than screen” error. You can inspect each URL and open a new page to run it through the Mobile Usability Tool provided by Google. Here you can access a more in-depth analysis of the mobile usability issues present on the page. Google will show you which areas require fixes, and recommend the type of fix required to resolve the error.
Set the Viewport
Setting the viewport in your website code is a fundamental step in proper responsive web design. If the viewport is not defined, the decision on how to display font sizes and graphical dimensions within the user interface across all devices is left to the web browser’s discretion. Each web browser will treat your code differently in some ways and display varying results for users. You definitely don’t want this to happen and should maintain control over how your website responds to different screen sizes no matter which browser is used.
The size of the content should automatically adjust according to the browser width or max-width of the device screen. To tell the browser to do this, you must set the viewport.
Setting the viewport is done simply by including a short snippet of code in the website. The code will automatically adjust the size of the page to match the size of the browser or device’s screen. It’s as simple as dropping this line of code into the <head> section of your website:
<meta name=”viewport” content=”width=device-width, initial-scale=1.0″>
Provide the Correct Width for Images
In some cases, the width of your images may be too large to display on a mobile device. This will cause a display issue for mobile and desktop users with a smaller screen width as the images will be cutoff by the screen edge and require users to scroll horizontally to reveal them. Aside from looking sloppy, this offers a very poor user experience to your audience which is precisely what Google is trying to mitigate with its Page Experience algorithm update.
If this display issue occurs on your website there is a quick and simple fix to fix the error. To do so, simply update the CSS stylesheet with a snippet of code that gives all the images across your site a maximum width of 100%. This will prevent the images from stretching or sliding off the edge of mobile screens. The code you can use is:
Set Media Queries Based on Viewport Size
Using CSS media queries can help with pages that have more advanced styling requirements. You can set specific media queries based on the size of the viewport and the capabilities of the device. By setting different CSS media queries and responsive breakpoints, you can make sure that your content adjusts to each specific screen size.
Use a Flexbox CSS Layout Model
The “floating layout model” which is still commonly used in web design results in the user browsing web pages horizontally. This design style can cause the “Content wider than screen” error, and it can result in a poor user experience rating by search engines that affects the whole site.
A better alternative is to use a flexbox CSS layout model which creates a more flexible page that responds to different mobile browsers mitigating the usability error.
Identify Blocked Resources
The trickiest scenario that could trigger the “Content wider than screen” error tends to fly below the radar because it’s not something we can see ourselves. As we discussed above, the error occurs when elements of your web page are blocking the Google bot from performing a crawl. These scenarios require a little more expertise to diagnose and repair but are easily done by a web developer using the URL Inspector in Google Search Console.
In your GSC account, go to URL Inspection > (enter your path to the affected page) > View and Diagnose Test Results
The Fetch and Render will show the status of that page in Google. If the result is “Partial”, there are elements on that page that are blocked from Google’s crawler. Clicking on the listing will reveal a list of these elements and allow you to correct the issues.
Validate the Fix
Once you have made the necessary changes, check the page again on the Mobile-Friendly Test in Search Console. If the page passes, you can click on “Validate Fix” and Google will recrawl the page to confirm the error has been resolved and remove the error from your account.
It’s that easy! All of your pages have to be optimized for mobile browsing to maintain good search engine rankings and keep optimal traffic flowing to your website. A bad user experience can quickly cause harm to your SEO performance and even affect people’s perception of your brand.
If a “Content wider than screen” error rears up, don’t let it fall to the wayside! Follow these steps to diagnose and fix the error and ensure your website is fully optimized for mobile!