4.28.15

Mobilegeddon. Soooo…that happened. Now what?

BY JOSH CULVER

We all know Mobilegeddon already happened. This article covers what you can do to fix it and what you should still keep an eye on.

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Most people in the marketing world know that Google released a mobile algorithm update last Tuesday. Those familiar with search updates like panda, penguin, etc are familiar with how these updates can change the search landscape. This is also the first time that Google has come out and preemptively announced a major algorithm update, what it will focus on and when it would be implemented. In the past, most algorithm changes have been identified after-the-fact. Once the update had gone into place you would see the effect on rankings, traffic, links, etc in the days and weeks following enactment.

Google also added tools for Webmaster to identify mobile problems on their site like the Mobile-Friendly Tester and the addition of Mobile Usability to their Webmaster Tools interface.

So, now that the update is almost a week old, what does it mean, who did it effect and what can you do about it now?

What sites were affected?

If you have a mobile specific version of your website (example of Domino’s here) or more likely, use a responsive design, you were most likely unaffected. I say “most likely” because there is still a chance the responsive design didn’t adhere to Google’s usability guidelines, or if you used a mobile specific version and have coding issues it may have negatively impacted the site. For example, “coding issues” would be not rendering correctly by device, inaccurate canonical tagging between mobile specific and desktop version, just to name a few.

How to check your site:

1. Run your site through Google's Mobile Friendly Tool -- https://www.google.com/webmasters/tools/mobile-friendly/

NOTE: This test is not 100% accurate. You may want to run your site through it a few times over the course of three or four days. We had sites that would get a failing test every second or third time even if they were perfectly usable on mobile and ended up being unaffected by the update.

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2. Review Google Webmaster Tools - As we have covered in a few different blogs, Google recently added 'Mobile Usability' to Webmasters. You can read a bit more about both mobile tests here but it is under Search Traffic > Mobile Usability. This is a more comprehensive view of how all of your pages appear to Google from a search perspective.

3. Review Google Analytics - Google Analytics lets you break traffic into ‘Mobile Only’ traffic or Mobile and Tablet’ traffic so you can see if there has been any decline in total traffic by device or any other search trends. I would recommend comparing the last week’s traffic to a few other random weeks over the last few months. What you should be looking for is any significant spikes or drops. I would also recommend doing an overlay with organic traffic. Google has stated that it will not affect desktop searches, however I would not be surprised to see some strong correlations.

If your site was hit

This section comes with a bit of a disclaimer: In the past, if a site is largely affected by an algorithm update form Google first day or two days or release, there will typically be self correction for algorithm so the rankings bounce a bit back up. Similar to a bouncing ball, it usually comes up a bit, but it may not be as high. So if your site was hit it may have looked worse initially than it actually is. That said, there’s no guaranteed to bounce back if you if your traffic and rankings took a big dive.

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If your site was hit there are a few things you can do, but most of these things may take a few weeks (if not months) to correct on site.

Assuming you don’t have a new website currently worked into your marketing budget, the first step is to identify those areas outlined in Google’s Mobile Friendly Test by priority. On the results page, it will list items to fix as search giant deems most important. This will vary from making sure your link elements aren’t too close together to make sure your robots.txt file isn’t blocking /mobile pages.

The 'quick fix' that isn’t quick at all.

One possible solution to a mobile problem would be to launch a temporary mobile-friendly version of the site that only has two or three pages about your products and services and how to be contacted. This will likely take much longer than it would appear to, but can be a temporary solution. If you have the resources, you should make a mobile site more robust, but if time and budget are not on your side, it may be the only option. The largest issue from a search perspective with this solution is making sure your coding and tagging are accurate before launch. Tagging codes and canonical tags can make this process pretty time-consuming and complicated, which is why it may not end up being the ‘quick fix’ you are looking for.

If your site wasn't hit

Hooray! Early reports say that the mobile role out may not have been as big as believed - initially. Over the past few years, Google has tried to make their algorithm updates more subtle and spread out over several weeks or even months - think Hummingbird - so your site may not be out of the woods just yet. The biggest thing you should do is keep an eye on your organic and mobile organic traffic in Google Analytics. Some of the hardest algorithm updates for sites to come back from are the 'slowburn effect' where rankings slowly sleep over the course of weeks or months. For example rankings slowly dipping from the top three results, then off the first page over two weeks, then settling somewhere in the middle of page three of the SERPs at the end of the month. So if your site has not yet shown affects, but it fails the Mobile Friendly test and has issues in Webmaster Tools, I would still take steps to get a mobile plan in place as soon as possible.

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Ideally, your site actually gained traffic and rankings over the past week. As I mentioned above, it may not be as good as it seems now, there will likely be a little bit of a retreat in ranking and traffic, but getting a bump is great, and I would continue to try to ride that wave with continued content development and social outreach.

Hopefully your site has made it through this first week unscathed and will continue to have success with mobile. If you have any questions about your mobile or search engine strategy or would like to reach out to us to review your site, feel free to call, leave a comment below or send us an email.

 

Josh Culver
written by JOSH CULVER

Josh Culver is the Director of Inbound Marketing for Carbon8. With more than seven years of experience in digital marketing, Josh has been able to work on email and display projects with a recent focus in paid and organic search.

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