How Much Did the Mobile-Friendly Update Affect My Business?
It's been a nerve-wracking week for many website owners. Google's release of the Mobile-Friendly algorithm has caused many businesses to wonder how they will be affected. The media coverage has even left some small business owners with the fear they might go out of business because of all this.
If you are one of the many businesses without a mobile-friendly website, chances are this update will have an impact on your website. Just how much you will be hurt by the change depends on a lot of factors (industry, competition, current mobile traffic, etc.). At this point, it's entirely unclear how big this update really is, but you will need to be able to tell how much mobile-friendly affected you.
It's Probably Too Early to Tell
First, it's important to understand that you won't notice much of anything right away. If you do manual searches on your phone, you may notice some fluctuation in your mobile rankings, but this is not a reliable test to see the potential effects of the mobile-friendly algorithm. In fact, it's not a good idea to search for yourself on Google with much regularity.
Since the mobile-friendly roll-out is expected to take about a month, many non-mobile friendly websites won't notice any negative impact for a while. Just because you have to wait doesn't mean you can't start tracking the effects though. No matter what your reason for not going mobile friendly, it's a good idea to be on the lookout for any signs that your business is suffering because of the update. Here's where you need to look:
Look for Changes in Leads or Sales
Let's start at the top. What's the most important thing for your business? Well, it's probably doing business. The most obvious sign that something is wrong is a drop in leads or sales. If you start to notice a decline in orders or contacts/quote requests during the weeks after the mobile-friendly update, then it's possible you have been affected. If, on the other hand, your leads or sales stay consistent or continue to grow, you probably don't need to worry specifically about the mobile-friendly update (although you should still have a plan to optimize your website for mobile since it's going to continue to become a bigger player in every industry).
This means you need to have a firm grasp on where your sales and leads are. Don't rely on gut feelings (well, I think the phone is ringing as much as it was before). Look at the data. Look at year-over-year trends. Are you getting as many leads or sales as you were last year at the same time? Did you experience a sudden drop in leads or sales this week or this month? If you notice anything out of the ordinary, you need to look for the cause. Don't just assume that mobile-friendly is responsible for the sky falling on your business.
Look for Changes in Mobile Traffic
The next thing you'll want to look at is your mobile traffic. Even if your leads and sales look good, it's still worth digging into the analytics to see if there have been any significant changes.
Again, let's start at the top. Don't start with your organic mobile traffic report. Look at all your mobile device traffic first. Once you open your Mobile report in Google Analytics, extend the date range so you can get a picture of the trends. You don't want to make the mistake of only looking at April 20th through April 24th and panicking because traffic went down. Maybe your traffic peaks on Monday and slides the rest of the week. Then you'll blame mobile-friendly when it isn't the culprit. You'll also want to make sure you're looking at both traffic and conversions. While you obviously want to know if the mobile-friendly update is stealing away your traffic, the bigger issue is whether or not your conversions are going down.
Look for any unusual changes or drop-offs. Don't forget to compare the data to the previous year so you can see if there are any seasonal trends at play. Be sure to consider any changes in your overall marketing strategy during the past year. For example, if you were doing digital advertising last year but you aren't this year, you shouldn't be surprised if things have dropped.
Look for Changes in Organic Mobile Traffic
Now let's break it down a bit more. Before doing this, be warned that referrer data is not perfect. There have been plenty of studies lately that suggest a lot of your organic traffic might be getting reported as direct.
Still, there's value in looking at the report. To find your organic mobile traffic, you're going to need to create a segment. For your segment, you'll want to choose "Mobile" for the Device Category (under the Technology tab) and "Organic Search" for the Default Channel Grouping (under the Conditions tab). This segment will allow you to look at any Google Analytics data for just mobile organic traffic.
Now, chances are, your organic mobile traffic is actually higher than what this report is going to show you. However, you can still get a sense of whether or not there have been any changes that might be tied to mobile-friendly.
Again, don't look at just a day or two of data. You're looking for significant and consistent changes in your organic mobile traffic. Fewer sessions on April 22nd does not mean you were hammered by the mobile-friendly update.
Look for Changes in Impressions/Clicks/Avg. Position in Google Webmaster Tools
Webmaster Tools should never be taken as exact data, but it can serve as an indicator of performance. Once you're in WMT, choose the Search Queries report (or Search Analytics report if you're a beta tester). By default, the Search Queries report is set to show "Web" data. Change the filter to "Mobile" and apply it.
Now you'll get an overview of impressions and clicks for mobile searches on Google. You'll also be able to see impressions, clicks, click-through rates, and average position by search query. Once again, you're looking for substantial and consistent changes in the data. If you notice a big drop in impressions or clicks in the post-mobile friendly era, then you'll want to dig into the query and page data to see what might have been affected. Don't be quick to blame everything on mobile-friendly though. You need to look at the complete picture, and you need to look at things over time.
You won't know exactly how much the mobile-friendly update affected you during the month April. You might not even fully realize it during May. However, you need to be tracking the impact closely. Even if you don't see major changes in the next few months, you'll still want to optimize your site for mobile in the near future. Mobile usage will continue to grow, and you'll be missing a lot of potential customers if you keep waiting. Your visitors will also be much more likely to convert on your mobile-friendly site.
This post is part of Internet Marketing Mysteries, a weekly column addressing actual client questions related to SEO, analytics, website best practices, and any other topic connected to internet marketing. Have a question you’d like to see tackled in a future post? Let us know in the comments.