It has been 3 days since the official launch of the Google Mobile algorithm update – affectionately termed “Mobilegeddon” by many folks in the digital space.
I discussed understanding traffic risk and getting prepared for the mobile update in my last piece. In this article, I want to provide you with a strategy for understanding how your site is being impacted and some solutions for mitigating the long-term performance risks in mobile search.
Update On What We Know Thus Far
- The mobile-friendly algorithm did begin rolling out as expected on 4/21, though evidence of significant fluctuations haven’t been apparent to both industry insiders such as SEL, Moz, or myself.
- As of today 4/24, the mobile-update has been 100% rolled out to some but not all data centers according to John Mueller of Google.
- Google provided a handy mobile-update FAQ
- There are 4.7% more mobile-friendly sites than 4 months ago, according to Google
Are you being impacted?
As Dr. Pete Myers of Moz has so eloquently pointed out, there does not seem to have been an inordinate amount of flux over the past few days to say anything outside of normal course-of-business trends are occurring.
However, Google did state in their FAQ that the algorithm will take at least a week or so before the algorithm makes its way to all pages in the index. I’d expect that with the growth of mobile-friendly sites combined with the roll-out of the algorithm, it will likely take weeks (and maybe longer) to experience and understand the true effects of Mobilegeddon.
In the interim, there are a few really great sources of data to help you understand impact short-term:
1.) Google Webmaster Tools > Top Pages (Focus on non-branded queries)
The first place I’d recommend going would be the Top Pages report on Google Webmaster Tools. Although the data they actually let you see is truncated, it can still serve as a great representative sample of what’s going on.
Additionally, it allows you to review day-by-day trends of impressions, clicks, click-through rate, and – most importantly – average rank position. Also, aside from BrightEdge (see below), it is one of the few tools that can give you accurate insights into Google mobile-specific searches.
With this data, you should be able to make some progress in terms of determining impact by utilizing the select date-range function.
At this point, I’d probably recommend comparing the three days prior to the update (4/18-4/20) to the three days since the update (4/21-4/23). Although data will be slightly skewed because of comparing a weekend date-range against an mid-week date range, the avg. rankings should till be fairly “apples-to-apples.”
I’d highly recommend splitting out the data into two primary areas:
- Pages that ARE mobile-friendly vs. those that ARE not.
- Pages with high branded intent (low-competition, not likely to move much) vs. pages with high non-branded intent (high-competition, highly likely to move).
2.) BrightEdge Smartphone Keyword Rankings
BrightEdge was the first tool of their kind to release mobile rank tracking SEO technology in August 2013, and it can be really helpful in terms of understanding ranking impact strictly at the smartphone level. In fact, you can even break it down by keyword.
Most of their ranking reports are set up to crawl weekly, but they do have daily crawl capabilities as well.
As a note, it looks like Moz will be releasing mobile rank-tracking soon as well.
3.) Tie it all together with your analytics platform
Once you understand what is going on from a rankings perspective, this should allow you to use page-level reporting to understand the full impact in terms of core KPI’s like visits, revenue, etc. The two benefits of bringing everything back to compare to your analytics package is that the numbers won’t be truncated (for the most part) like they are in Webmaster Tools, and you (if you have it configured) can garner insights into real business impact.
I’d recommend taking the same approach as mentioned above regarding splitting out groups of pages that ARE/ARE NOT mobile-friendly, as well as groups of pages with high brand intent/high non-brand intent.
Where do I go next?
If you’re mobile-friendly
If you do have a mobile-friendly site, continue to focus on achieving relevance and implementing a good user experience to capitalize on the likely lift in market share – consider this your head start against non-mobile-friendly competitors.
In fact, Jim Yu of Brightedge wrote a nice column on taking your mobile-friendliness to the next level, which links to a lot of great resources. I’d definitely recommend reading it when you have the time.
Also, just because you’re technically “mobile-friendly” doesn’t mean you’re out of the woods. Many sites that pass mobile-friendliness tests still have issues with site speed and still have mobile-usability issues that can (and should be fixed). Get on those if you want to keep your current advantage.
If you’re NOT mobile-friendly
If you’re the unlucky owner/webmaster of a non-mobile-friendly site, I would say that this may be a tough period, but it’s not the end of the world.
Google is still in the business of providing the most relevant results to consumers, so if a non-mobile-friendly result is far more relevant than the mobile-friendly ones, there still might be an advantage to be had.
Here’s what they’ve said in their FAQ:
[su_quote]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.[/su_quote]
However, if your entire site (or parts of it) lacks mobile-friendliness, I’d recommend implementing one of Google’s suggested configurations as soon as possible (e.g. Mobile-Separate, Responsive, Dynamic Serving).
Avoid the all-or-nothing approach if possible. If there are technology/resource constraints, which there almost always are, it would probably make sense to prioritize and get at minimum the important pages to a mobile-friendly solution rather than trying to do the whole site at once (or worse, not at all).
In this case, I’d recommend the responsive or dynamic serving solution over a mobile-separate site as it reduces the complexities of managing multiple sites/URLs. However, any of the three approaches will technically work.
However, per Google, be careful with the logistics of how you implement and the user experience portion:
[su_quote]Please be cautious about creating a “stripped down” version of your site. While the page may be formatted for mobile, if it doesn’t allow your visitors to easily complete their common tasks or have an overall smooth workflow, it may become frustrating to your visitors and perhaps not worth the effort. Should a temporary mobile site be created, once the RWD is live, be sure to move the site properly.[/su_quote]
With the algorithm being page-by-page, this strategy will help you at least get some of the pages passing while you work through the rest a little at a time. You can use the Google Mobile-Friendly testing tool to check them off as you go.
Hopefully you haven’t been impacted, but if you have, I hope I’ve provided you with some effective methods for understanding impact as well as digging yourself out of the Mobilegeddon hole so to speak.
Let’s continue this in the comments. How is everyone faring so far?