Google made an announcement explaining its mobile-friendly ranking signal will expand to cover a larger portion of search queries as of April 21, 2015. Google started using the “mobile-friendly” label in November 2014, so we can infer that the original rollout of the label has led to a positive user experience, ultimately facilitating the decision to have mobile ranking signals carry more weight in its algorithm.
In this post, I will walk you through what you need to know about the update and share how we have helped our B2B clients prioritize mobile initiatives and set expectations internally regarding the impact the update might have on organic traffic performance.
Details of the Mobile Update:
- The update will begin on April 21st, 2015 and take a few days to a week.
- It will only impact queries and search results on mobile devices. If you are ranking #1 on desktop and mobile for a keyword phrase, after the update you may be surpassed on mobile if other SERP competitors are providing a better mobile experience.
- It is reported to have a bigger impact on queries and websites than any Panda or Penguin update.
- The update will be on a page-by-page basis. At KoMarketing, one of our clients just launched a responsive site. We’ve found some of the pages receive “mobile-friendly” labels while some pages do not have “mobile-friendly” labels. Taking this a step further means that pages without mobile-friendly labels could lose their rankings in mobile search results following the update.
- The new algorithm will have a real-time component. This means that as you work on making pages of your site mobile-friendly, once Google is able to detect the website changes, you should see a “mobile friendly” label for that page.
- To check the mobile-friendly status of your website, do a Google search for site:domain.com on a mobile device.
This is the quickest way to see whether or not Google views your sites’ pages as mobile-friendly. A second method of testing mobile friendliness is Google’s Mobile-Friendly Test.
Remember not to get hyper-focused on mobile. Mary of Google’s Webmaster Team said it best when asked, “Will degrees of mobile friendliness impact rankings?”
“But as we mentioned earlier, there are over 200 different factors that determine ranking so we can’t just give you a yes or no answer with this. It depends on all the other attributes of your site, weather it is providing a great user experience or not. That is the same with desktop search, not isolated with mobile search.” Source
It is easy for us as B2B marketers to get hyper-focused on mobile based on Google’s announcement; however, it is more productive to recognize the many factors that Google uses to rank a page and work—in the long-term—to provide the best user experience possible across your B2B website and across devices.
Here is How to Prioritize and Set Expectations
There are data points I will collect in preparation for discussions with clients. First, identify which competitors are mobile-friendly and the extent to which they are mobile-friendly. Do the same site:domain.com search for competitors to help answer the following questions:
- Are your competitors’ homepages mobile-friendly?
- Are transactional landing pages of your B2B competitor’s mobile-friendly?
If competitors have deeper mobile-friendly pages while you do not, they could benefit come April 21st if non mobile-friendly pages are currently ranking ahead of them. Make note of each competitor and to the extent at which they are mobile to help discuss with internal stakeholders how to prioritize your mobile initiatives.
Second, identify your mobile traffic from Google. You should know the overall monthly number of sessions from Google mobile, but also look at specific pages of your B2B website driving mobile traffic. Follow the steps below in Google Analytics to find this:
Once you get to Google Analytics, go down to All Traffic in the left navigation and click Channels.
Then click Organic Search.
Then hit, Landing Page to see the different pages of your site driving organic traffic.
Apply the mobile only advanced segment at the top of the page:
I like to then remove the All Sessions segment to only look at mobile traffic:
Now you can see your overall organic traffic on mobile devices in addition to your pages driving mobile traffic. Set your time frame to the start of 2015. This data should help drive your internal discussion and ultimately aid you in getting the budget you need for mobile.
The landing page level data is key. Remember how the update is a page-by-page? Make a list of which pages drive the most traffic from mobile and which ones have converted from mobile. Use this data to make the case of investing technical resources towards for making top pages mobile-friendly first to help stay competitive in mobile search results and maintain traffic.
Bonus: also view your mobile organic traffic data at the source level to see how much of it is from Google only.
If you’re Getting Mobile Usability Issues in Google Webmaster Tools
In March, it seems like an influx of messages were sent to webmasters about mobile usability issues. Here are a few of the common ones and what they mean in simple terms:
- Size Content to Viewport – when you turn a smartphone horizontally, the page does not fit within the screen. More tips here.
- Touch Elements too Close – specific targets such as buttons, links, or form fields might be too small or close together for a user to tap. Ensure CSS pixels are roughly 7mm and no smaller than 5mm. More tips here.
- Small Font Size – the way in which your fonts appear on mobile are inhibiting the mobile experience. Use base font size of 16 CSS pixels; however change size based on the properties of the font used. More tips here.
Google details their guidelines for mobile websites in its Mobile Guide.
And remember, do not get all consumed by the mobile update that is approaching. Keep in mind your overall online marketing strategy and stay the course if it is working well. Use where the competition stands and where your B2B mobile website traffic is to help determine how fast you should be making the change to mobile-friendly.
Additional Mobile Algorithm Update Resources
- Google: The Mobile-Friendly Ranking Factor Runs In Real-Time & Is On A Page-By-Page Basis – via Search Engine Land
- Google Clarifies The Mobile-Friendly Algorithm Will Roll Out Over A Week, Be A Yes/No Response & More – via Search Engine Land
- Google’s Mobile Update: What We Know So Far (Updated 3/25) – via Moz
- 9 Things You Need to Know About Google’s Mobile-Friendly Update – via Moz
- Everything You Need to Know About Google’s New Stance on Mobile – via Search Engine Land
- 5 Key Action Items for B2B Marketing Optimizing for Mobile Search