April 21st, as we all know, was when Google’s new Mobile Friendly Updates started adjusting their algorithms to include mobile-friendliness as a ranking factor. It’s been over a month since the update (and the mass panic) so we thought we’d offer up our two cents and share with you the impact these updates had on WAW, in terms of structure and analytics.
As you know, we updated to a mobile responsive theme in April 2014 because we wanted a better user experience for our mobile traffic. We won’t lie – we were also hoping for an increase in mobile traffic. It’s been roughly 6 weeks since Google implemented the algorithm changes so we wanted to see what changes, if any, happened to our mobile search results and traffic.
1. Google Webmaster Tools (Search Console)
When the changes rolled out in April the first thing we did was keep an eye on Google Webmaster Tools and their “Mobile Usability” section. On the 22nd of April we had 2 pages with mobility issues, both of which were pages using tables and had been created a few years ago. We went into the pages, re-designed them and checked them on our mobiles to ensure that they worked well, then went back into GMT to test them using these steps:
- Log into WMT and go to Search Traffic => Mobile Usability
- If you have any pages with issues they’ll show up here, click on the link you want to view/test
- WMT will also tell you what the issues are; text too small, touch elements too close etc. Our two pages had tables that weren’t behaving responsively so they didn’t show up well on mobile devices. The easiest fix was to reformat the pages.
Once the pages had been re-styled into a more mobile friendly manner I was too impatient to wait and let GMT discover the work on their next crawl. To prod the bots into recognising our eagerness to please we went into Crawl => Fetch as Google and entered our URL into the box:
Then in the dropdown list we selected “Mobile: Smartphone” and “Fetch and Render”. This sends the Googlebot to go look at a specific page on your website (if you leave the URL blank then it fetches your homepage), once Googlebot has fetched the page you’ll get a result on the same page like this:
As you can see we were up early! Once the page has been fetched you’ll see a result under “Status”, clicking on the “partial” (or “complete”) will show you what Googlebot sees on that page and what a user would see. Our “partial” result on this page was due to some elements from a couple of plugins that were blocking robots. This indicated to us that Googlebot recognised our page as being mobile responsive (and that we’ve fixed the issues on the same day they were reported).
As a belt and braces check a few weeks later we tried a different method within GMT to make sure that nothing new had been identified and our changes were acceptable. Go back to your Mobile Usability Page, click on the link and then click on it again which will bring up this window:
The date detected is still the original one, 22nd of April which is great (there’s no new issues) so double check it we click on the “Check Live Version” button we get a happy:
We were really pleased (and relieved) that out of our 2000+ pages/posts on WAW only 2 were marked as mobile unfriendly. We’ll continue to keep an eye on GWT to make sure that if new pages pop up we can sort them out. Moving onto the Analytics!
2. Google Analytics
Mobile and User Experience
A few months ago we wrote a post about The Importance of Being Mobile and what differences we’d noticed upon going mobile. Today we’re going to look at what changes we’ve noticed since Google’s new mobile updates … if any.
At this point I’d like to do a shout out to Jeff Sauer and his post “On Mobilegeddon and why Analytics > Opinions“, we agree that the hype, doom and gloom over mobilegeddon was impressive, especially since Google was really only adding in what we’ve all been talking about for years (The Year of the Mobile). Mobile Responsiveness is about a great user experience and reaching your audience wherever they may be and you want them to be able to access your content at home or on a plane, train or automobile on any device. We always use the term “mobile responsive” but remember we’re defining mobile as;
“able to move or be moved freely or easily”
As opposed to specifically talking about mobile phones. Rant over … NOW, onto our Analytics!
Within our mobile analytics we’re going to be looking at two different sections:
- Mobile Overview to give us an idea of what portion of our traffic is on desktop, mobile or tablet
- Search Analytics in WMT which will show us search results for mobile, desktop and tablet. You can filter by date, type of queries, conduct comparisons etc.
For the purposes of this we’re going to set our date range for all 3 of the above for April 1st to May 31st 2015 which gives us two months worth of data and where applicable we’ll compare it to the same date range in 2014.
Mobile Overview (GA)
For this we take our usual route into Google Analytics and select “Audience => Mobile => Overview“. This shows what what proportion of our overall sessions is coming from Desktop, Mobile and Tablet.
If you’ve read my earlier posts you’ll recognise the WAW lovely rolling hills! From this graph you can see our total sessions and how much of that total is from destop, mobile or tablet. Our mobile/tablet sessions are a small piece of the WAW pie and account for approximately 18% of our overall site sessions. This may sound depressing – but when you compare those numbers to the previous year our mobile traffic has grown by 97%. What’s even better is that our desktop traffic has also grown, only by 8% but still an increase in both mobile and desktop makes us happy!
With respect to the update (you can see our notification on the 21st) that our mobile traffic has remained fairly steady since the update.
Search Analytics (WMT)
To get this data log into Web Master Tools and go to “Search Traffic => Search Analytics”. If you haven’t looked at Search Queries in WMT for a while you’ll notice the layout has changed. You can go back to the old view by clicking on the link at the top of the page but we’ve stayed in the new design. This is where you can add filters to search for specific information, for this we’re only looking at “click” and comparing “desktop to mobile” and setup our date range.
Once we’ve setup our filters our chart below populates:
Google has even added an “update” line so you can compare before and after. As you can see our mobile data is a small portion of our overall picture which isn’t a big surprise. From these we can see that our mobile clicks have remained virtually the same as they were before the update – the numbers might be slightly lower but we also know that this time of year and the Christmas holiday period are our two slow periods.
Having read through (and shared some) of the multitude of posts on #mobilegeddon we saw a lot of mixed reports about what the latest mobile update from Google actually means for your website. Going through our analytics we haven’t seen a huge decline in our traffic or search query clicks/impressions which is great news. The slight decrease we’ve seen could be attributed to a few factors like that this is typically a slow time of year for WAW as everyone is getting prepped for summer holidays or that we saw such slight variation because we upgraded mobile capabilities last year.
I think the real take home lesson with this is that one metric alone doesn’t tell you what’s happening with your site. As ever, Analytics is about taking your data and outside influences (i.e. time of year) and building insights from all of it and remember that updating your site to account for an increase in mobile users results in a win/win situation for both user and organisation.