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How Should Your Business Respond to #Mobilegeddon? (TLDR: Start with Deep Breaths)

OK, so let’s breathe, everybody.

If you’re in the search marketing (or even in the digital marketing) space you’ve likely heard about Google’s unusual preemptive announcement of a pending algorithm update around mobile-friendly sites in search results. It has a lot of folks anxious, has been all over the news and is being billed as a major, impactful update.

That doesn’t necessarily mean the sky is falling on your website or business by end of day today.

First off, as Google’s Gary Illyes pointed out on Twitter, the update is rolling out over the course of the next few weeks:

So if your site was showing as not being “mobile friendly” and you’re not seeing any movement yet, you might not yet be out of the woods.

If you do want to take an initial look at how your mobile traffic from organic search is doing, you can quickly look at your traffic metrics to help understand if there’s been a major change.

Within Google Analytics, you want to first create a new, custom segment:

Screenshot of creating a new, custom segment in Google Analytics.

Within that segment, you first want to add a filter for Traffic Sources > Medium > Organic:

Screenshot of a custom segment including organic traffic.

Next, you can also add Technology > Device Category > Mobile:

Screenshot of a custom segment including mobile and organic traffic.

You now have a segment for Mobile Organic traffic.

You can look next at a date range comparison of today’s traffic versus the same traffic last week (so that you’re comparing apples to as apple-like of a few hours of data as you can):

Screenshot showing how to create a week-over-week date comparison in Google Analytics.

And then look specifically at hourly traffic to get an early look at how you’re faring compared to the same day the previous week:

Screenshot of an hourly traffic comparison in Google Analytics.

This image above is from a smaller, older site my company owns that is not mobile-friendly per Google’s test.

As you can see there’s no early signs of impact, but that doesn’t mean that the site’s organic mobile traffic won’t be impacted over time. As with any small slicing it’s important to keep in mind that – in addition to the fact that the full impact of this mobile update hasn’t yet been felt – there could be a number of other factors at play if you’re seeing a major difference in traffic.

Questions to ask yourself include:

  • Does most of your organic mobile traffic come from searches for your brand (even with a mobile-unfriendly site it’s not likely your brand will get nuked)?
  • Or is your organic mobile traffic from a portion of your site that is mobile-friendly?  I.e., your site’s inner pages could be poor user experiences on mobile but you may have a custom mobile design for the homepage, which may get most of your organic traffic from mobile searches.
  • Did you run other promotions that may have impacted last week’s data (or today’s)?
  • Could your site could have suffered from other ranking fluctuations not related to this latest algorithm update?

If you see an uptick in traffic, it may just be because some of your competitors have dropped out of search results (and you may see a negative impact of the update later as it continues to roll out).

You can look at a comparison versus a few previous Tuesdays in this way as well to get a sense of whether your numbers are significantly off. Assuming you’re not seeing anything alarming, you can continue to monitor your overall traffic using larger samples over time.

In my post earlier this month I also walked through some specific means of measuring your mobile traffic overall and for different sections of your site. Some tools are also starting to show mobile-friendly data already. SERPs offers mobile keyword rankings that highlight whether a listing is showing as “mobile-friendly” or not.

Glenn Gabe also points out that SEM Rush is offering a mobile-friendliness check as well:

If you are seeing a major drop in mobile traffic in the coming weeks and are looking for the quickest possible path to being more mobile-friendly and getting back some of your organic mobile traffic, below is some specific technical advice from my colleague Jamie Mazur, the co-founder and CTO at digital marketing agency All Points Digital:

Look at the analytics and review the traffic coming from mobile devices. Where possible, analyze what revenue or soft return is attached to those visitors. Armed with this information, make an informed decision on whether a potentially expensive “rush job” or throw-away short-term fix is worth the cost.

Your choices are:

  • Ignore the deadline, and focus on creating a quality mobile-friendly user experience on your own timeline.
  • Enlist whoever you need, regardless of time or cost, to beat the clock while implementing a lasting solution
  • Hack in quick fixes to pass the “mobile-friendly” test to avoid the wrath of The Google

For those looking for the quick fix, there are a few basic strategies that we recommend:

  • Attempt a Plug & Play Solution: If your site is built using a basic WordPress theme, check for an update that may make it responsive. If one is not available, take a look at plugins like Wptouch.
  • Force Your Page to Fit: Uses the <meta name=”viewport” width=device-width initial-scale=1> tag appropriately. If you don’t know what this is, Google it or ask your developer.
  • Add Rudimentary Responsive Design to Trouble Spots: Audit your page styling (CSS and HTML) for fixed-positioning, larger fixed-size images, and font sizes. Use media queries to remove or restyle elements that are too large or small for a mobile device.
  • Let Google Be Your Guide: Use the mobile-friendly test. Treat the results as your to do list.

For those for whom it matters, there is still time to escape Mobilegeddon. Don’t try to boil the ocean – just grab the low-hanging fruit. It may not be perfect, but you will end up with a better mobile experience than you have today, and you will likely retain your search positioning.

If mobile traffic just does not mean that much to you today, take a few deep breaths. Stop circling April 21st on your calendar, but plan to act soon. You won’t want to be left on the outside looking in at the hordes of web traffickers happily engaging through their devices.

Google has already shared some helpful FAQ answers, and there are a number of interesting early reactions to the update from around the Twittersphere:

Your turn: What are you seeing? How is your business responding?

All screenshots were taken by the author on 4/21. 

Featured image photo credit: Shutterstock

Category SEO
Tom Demers Managing Partner at Digital Examiner

Tom is the co-founder and managing partner of Measured SEM and Digital Examiner. He was also the former Director of ...

How Should Your Business Respond to #Mobilegeddon? (TLDR: Start with Deep Breaths)

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