In this video, we discuss how you could improve your organic rankings by diagnosing your website’s performance on mobile and applying certain principles to boost mobile user metrics.
A lot of times, marketers and SEO professionals do everything right to bring a website up to best SEO practices. Yet their website still isn’t ranking high in organic Google search.
Here’s one quick and easy test and fix that can help significantly.
So we know that Google now considers the mobile versions of websites higher than desktop. You’ve likely gotten a message like this when logging in to search console, saying that the majority of Google’s crawl requests to your site will be done using a mobile crawler.
We also know that with the Google Rankbrain algorithm update, Google is now looking at user metrics – or user experience signals – as a ranking factor. Meaning, how your website performs will have an influence on it’s position in search results. And how your website performs can be measured with standard website metrics found in Google Analytics such as time spent on page and number of pages viewed. You can read more about this in backlinko’s blog which brilliantly covers the topic of Google Rankbrain.
Ok then. So we know that 1) Google now places greater importance on mobile compared to desktop; and 2) Google now considers how a website performs to determine it’s keyword ranking positions.
So the simple logical conclusion is this: If your website performs poorly on mobile then your rankings will suffer greatly as a consequence.
Alright then, so how do we diagnose whether your website is performing poorly on mobile? It’s actually very simple.
Just log in to the Google Analytics account associated with your website. If you don’t have Google Analytics set up, then you need to go back a step and get it set up. There are a lot of resources on how to do this if you’re not sure.
Once you’re in Google Analytics, navigate to the left sidebar and go to audience. Then go down to mobile and press overview.
Now, by default, Google Analytics shows data for the past 1 week. So in the case of this website that we’re looking at, it’s only breaking down the 84 total users that have visited the website in the past week.
But when you’re looking at data, it’s very important to consider sample size. Looking at how the website performed based on 84 total users (and only 9 mobile users) comes with a huge risk of coming to inaccurate conclusions.
So what you want to do is to go back as far as possible, to the point where you last made any significant changes to the website.
So let’s suppose that this website hasn’t been significantly changed since the begining of May, so we’ll choose that date range instead. Now this is a more robust data set which will let you come to reliable observations.
So now looking at the data below, the three main columns that you want to look at fall under the behavior heading. These are Bounce Rate, Pages per session, and average session duration.
And these for the most part are pretty self explanatory. Pages per session is how many pages a user visits during a single time that they visit your website. Average session duration reflects how long they stayed on your website. And bounce rate – which may be the more ambiguous one – reflects what % of users left your site before taking any actions – which could mean going to a different page, clicking a button, filling out a form, etc.
And generally you want your pages per session and average duration to be high, and your bounce rate to be low.
So with that in perspective, let’s look at the Analytics data again and compare how mobile is performing in relation to desktop.
As you can see here, for mobile: our bounce rate is higher than average, there are less pages viewed per session, and the average session duration is much shorter. So just this quick snapshot tells us that mobile is performing far more poorly than desktop.
We can even drill down deeper to see if this poor performance on mobile is happening across all devices or whether it’s just being dragged down by certain devices. To do that, we can go back to the navigation bar and go on devices.
And aha! We see that the website is performing particularly poorly on the Google Nexus 5 device, suggesting that possibly the website might be rendering incorrectly on this device – perhaps because of the device’s size, or any other number of issues.
We should reiterate the point about sample sizes again here. In this example, you shouldn’t really look at the data for any of the devices other than the first 2 listed here, as all of the other ones have significantly small sample sizes, which you shouldn’t make any generalizations from.
So that’s great. We uncovered that the website is performing poorly on mobile, and particularly on specific devices. So what now?
Firstly, there are general things you can do to improve mobile performance. The biggest one by far is mobile page loading speed. It’s pretty simple: if your site loads slow, users won’t interact with it much, or they’ll just leave altogether. You can test mobile loading speed by using Google’s pagespeed insights tool, which also gives suggestions on how to bring the website’s loading speeds up.
Another thing that influences website performance is the user interface and consumer journey. If a person goes on your website, scrolls through it, gets to the bottom, and it’s just a dead end: they’ll likely just hit back and leave the website. Likewise, if the layout overwhelms them, they won’t be able to spot anything of value on the page, so they may also leave.
What you want is to have a clean and easy layout and guide your users through the journey. Have different buttons that will direct them to other pages; add forms and interactive widgets that they can engage with.
All of these factors have been found to improve mobile user metrics. And the idea then is to test these changes and compare what impact they have – although this could be left for another video.
Lastly, if the website performs poorly only on specific devices, it might be a rendering issue. There are tools out there that can emulate how your website renders on specific devices. These tools include mobiready, mobiletest.me, and mobile moxie. If it is the case that the website doesn’t render properly on a specific device, you can then bring it up with your developers to assess and fix the problem accordingly.
One last thing that should be mentioned is that poor user metrics on a specific device may not always be caused by the website rendering poorly on it. It could be caused by something like bot crawlers from other countries that crawl through websites using a specific device. Although this is a more advanced topic that we won’t be going into here.
So that’s pretty much it. We know how important mobile is to google and how user behaviour metrics are now an organic ranking signal. Now you know how to diagnose how your website is performing on mobile, and a few ways to address the issues or improve performance. The ultimate aim of all of this is to achieve strong organic rankings by optimizing mobile user performance.