As if we didn’t already have enough to think about in any given SEO campaign, it is now imperative to separate and refine your approaches to mobile and desktop search.
While mobile has become hugely significant over the last couple of years, this shouldn’t be to the neglect of desktop. Although SEO for mobile and desktop follow the same basic principles and best practices, there are nuances and discrepancies that need to be factored in to your overall strategy.
Part of this is the keyword rankings: you won’t ever know how to adapt your strategies if you’re not tracking the rankings separately for each. Research from BrightEdge found that 79% of listings have a different rank on mobile devices compared with desktop, and the top-ranking result for a query is different on desktop and mobile 35% of the time. These are statistics that simply cannot be ignored.
Why do they do differ?
Before delving into how to compare keyword rankings on mobile and desktop, it’s first important to acknowledge the why and the what: why they are different and what it means for your SEO strategy.
It’s paramount to understand that desktop and mobile searches use different algorithms. Ultimately, Google wants to provide the best user experience for searchers, whatever device they are using. This means creating a bespoke device-tailored experience and in order to do that, we need to delve deeper into user intent.
It’s all about user intent
The crux of the mobile versus desktop conundrum is that user intent tends to differ for each device. This is particularly important when considering how far along the funnel a user is. It’s a generalization, but overall mobile users are often closer to the transactional phase, while desktop users are usually closer to the informational phase.
For example, we can better understand user intent on mobile by understanding the prevalence of local search. If a user is searching for a product or service on mobile, it is likely to be local. In contrast, users searching for a product or service on desktop are more likely to be browsing non-location-specific ecommerce sites.
Let’s also consider the types of conversions likely to occur on each device, in terms of getting in touch. Users on mobile are for more likely to call, by simply tapping the number which appears in the local map pack section. Alternatively, desktop users would be more inclined to type an email or submit a contact form.
What on earth is a micro-moment?
To better understand the different ways in which consumers behave, it may help to spend a little time familiarizing yourself with micro-moments. These refer to Google’s ability to determine a searcher’s most likely intent, and is particularly important for mobile users, when a consumer often needs to take immediate action.
For example, if a user is searching for a local product or service, the local map pack will appear, but if they are searching for information then the quick answer box will appear. These micro-moments therefore have a significant impact on the way the SERPs are constructed.
Once you’ve understood the user intent of a given searcher, you can ensure that you are providing content for both mobile and desktop users. However, it’s worth bearing in mind that content with longer word counts continues to perform well on mobile, despite the general consensus that people on mobile simply can’t be bothered to consume long form content. This harks back to Google’s prioritization of high quality content. Besides, anybody who has a long train commute into work will understand the need for a nice, long article to read on mobile.
With that context, we can now return to the matter at hand: rankings. Of course, you could record the rankings for both desktop and mobile the old-fashioned, manual way, but who has time for that? In short, any good SEO tool worth its salt will enable you to track both desktop and mobile rankings separately. Here are some favorites:
- SEMRush is a personal favorite among the plethora of fancy SEO tools. SEMRush provides a comprehensive breakdown of mobile vs desktop results (as well as tablet if you really want to geek out) and displays the percentage of mobile-friendly results for your domain.
- SearchMetrics offers Desktop vs. Mobile Visibility metrics, detailing individual scores for desktop and mobile, as well as overlap metrics which show how many keyword search results appear in exactly the same position for both. You can also drill down further to view how a website performs with regard to localized results.
- Moz. Through Moz Pro, you can track the same rankings metrics for both desktop and mobile. Filter by labels and locations to dig further into the data.
- Google Search Console. Don’t have access to any of the above tools? Don’t worry as you can still rely on the trusty Google Search Console. When looking at your search analytics, filter devices by comparing mobile and desktop. Even if you do have access to an SEO tool that allows you to do comparison analysis, it’s definitely still worth checking in on your Search Console insights.
Rankings are only part of the picture
It’s important to remember that rankings are only a tiny part of the picture; it’s essential to take a more holistic approach to the mobile vs desktop issue. This means taking the time to dig around Google Analytics and unearth the data and meaning beyond the vanity metrics.
You may have higher rankings for mobile, but those users might be bouncing more regularly. Is this a reflection of the user intent or is it a poor user experience? Does higher rankings for one device correlate to higher conversions? If not, then you need to consider the reasons for this. There’s no one-size-fits-all answer, so you must take a tailored approach to your strategy.
Quick tips for differentiating your strategies
You’ve got your mobile and desktop rankings sorted. Now you need to create or amend your strategies for both devices. Here are some quick tips to do so:
- Separate mobile and desktop-specific search terms in your keyword research
- Factor in voice search for mobile devices
- Consider implementing Accelerated Mobile Pages where appropriate
- Carry out a mobile SEO audit on your site
- Include mobile vs desktop into your tracking and reporting, going beyond the rankings
- Revisit your content strategy to ensure you are factoring in both mobile and desktop optimized content – cater for both types of user.
In short, tracking your keywords on mobile and desktop is absolutely essential for both reporting accuracy and supporting separate SEO strategies for each device. But don’t stop there; it’s more important to understand why the rankings differ and how you can use that information to refine your SEO strategies.
Wondering where to focus your efforts this year in order to gain an edge over your competitors? Columnist Jeremy Knauff has some ideas.
We’re just about three weeks into the new year, and the momentum you establish now can easily set the pace for the rest of your year.
I’d like to help you start 2018 off with a bang by earning three simple wins that will set the stage for further success and growth, not just for this year, but long into the future.
These wins are simple, but that doesn’t mean they’re easy — because while the concepts are not complex, a lot of work will be required to accomplish them.
That may seem like a bad thing, but it’s actually a blessing in disguise because it means that most of your competitors won’t even put in the effort, which will give you a significant advantage over them.
Improve page speed to improve ranking
Google just recently announced that beginning in July 2018, mobile page speed will be a ranking factor for its mobile search results. Page speed also has a significant impact on user experience, and several aspects of user experience are direct ranking factors, too.
Studies show that the faster a web page loads, the longer visitors will remain, and in most cases, more of them will convert to paying customers compared to visitors on slower websites.
Most people have a tremendous opportunity for improvement in this area because they don’t realize how poorly their website is performing. I was recently talking with a potential client about SEO for his website, and when the topic of page speed came up, he proudly insisted that his website “loads super fast — usually in under one or two seconds!”
If that were true, it would have been phenomenal; however, it was actually closer to thirty seconds, according to the tests I performed using several different tools.
It’s important to point out that when I talk about page speed, I’m not specifically talking about Google’s PageSpeed Insights. I’m talking about how long it takes a web page to load in general.
Some ways you can improve page speed include:
- investing in high-performance web hosting.
- properly scaling and compressing images.
- implementing server caching, browser caching and Gzip compression.
Leverage a personal brand for link building
If you’ve managed a website for any length of time, you’ve most likely been on the receiving end of a lot of link requests, and I think it’s a safe bet that most of them were probably terrible. Now I’m going to say something that might hurt your feelings: If you’ve sent a link request, it was probably terrible, too.
Cold link outreach is challenging, and you generally don’t earn very many links in relation to the number of emails you send out. This is because you’re asking for something from a stranger before you’ve built any rapport, which is an almost certain recipe for disaster. Effective link building depends on relationships, not brute force and volume.
Rather than cold link outreach, a more effective strategy is to develop a personal brand that others want to connect with. This is easier said than done because it will require a tremendous amount of work, performed consistently over a relatively long period of time.
However, once you’ve developed a personal brand, it will be much easier to leverage the kind of relationships you’ll then develop, to efficiently build links. In fact, if your personal brand becomes powerful enough, often, people will link to your content without you even asking.
A few ways you can develop a personal brand include:
- creating consistently branded profiles on key social networks.
- regularly sharing valuable content from others in your industry, along with your insight on it.
- engaging with your audience, both those below and above your stature within your industry.
- regularly publishing amazing content, both on your own website and in industry publications and top-tier business publications like Forbes, Entrepreneur and Fast Company.
Incorporate video into your SEO efforts
Video is a driving force in digital marketing today, and we’re quickly approaching a point where it’s just as essential as having a website and social media presence. It can play a significant role in your SEO efforts in two distinct ways.
The first is that video often helps to keep interested visitors on your website longer. Google sees this as a sign of a positive user experience, which has a beneficial impact on your organic ranking. A side benefit here is that you’re also giving visitors more of a chance to truly connect with your brand.
The second is that by publishing your videos on YouTube, you have the potential to put your brand in front of a larger audience through YouTube’s search results. (YouTube is often referred to as the “second-largest search engine in the world” due to its position as the second-most-visited website globally after Google, according to Alexa rankings.)
On top of that, you’re leveraging the authority of YouTube’s domain, so you also have the opportunity to get your videos ranked in Google’s search results.
I know a lot of you right now are saying, “Whoa, Jeremy! There’s no way in hell I’m getting on video!”
Look, I understand that being on video can feel uncomfortable, awkward, and even terrifying, but it doesn’t have to be any of those things. Once you start doing video regularly, you’ll get used to it, and besides — it’s become a necessity, so unless you want to lose ground to competitors, you have to step outside of your comfort zone.
Video expert Holly Gillen of Holly G Studios says, “Video is one of the most powerful tools you have in business today! The race has begun, and if you’re not running you are now getting left behind. At the end of the day, you can have video or you can have excuses, but you can’t have both.”
Some ways you can incorporate video into your SEO include:
- creating videos that answer questions your prospects have about your products, services and industry, as well as videos that demonstrate who you are and why you do what you do.
- optimizing your videos on YouTube so they’ll show up in YouTube’s search, in conjunction with that, building relevant, high-quality links to them so that they show up in Google’s search results.
- embedding your videos from YouTube on your own website to keep visitors engaged and on your website longer.
Keyword Rankings Are Meaningless: Learn How to Grade Your SEOMeasure organic success with relevant metrics.
Like many business owners and managers, you probably test the effectiveness of your SEO campaign by Googling the keywords you think are most important to see if you show up on the first page. And when you receive reports about your website traffic, you focus on the chart that shows average rankings for your targeted keywords.
When you’re spending good money on SEO, it’s common to obsess over your keyword rankings. You’re competitive and, to you, winning online means claiming the top spot in Google results. The problem is keyword rankings are an irrelevant metric to gauge online success. To truly understand whether your SEO campaign is working, you need to learn which measurements deserve your attention.
Relevancy gets results.
Long-tail keyword phrases are among the building blocks of an SEO strategy. They are used to optimize copywriting, metadata and link-building strategies. They serve to boost your website’s relevancy so the right web pages appear among search results for the right people in the right places.
But it doesn’t matter how your website ranks for each exact search phrase because there is wide variety in how people search — especially with the growth of voice searches — and the results Google shows each individual based on his or her history, location, device and other data.
There is no universal “page 1.” Google is customizing search results using RankBrain, artificial intelligence that analyzes search queries to provide better answers — making results less predictable and giving websites less control over when and where they appear. This means your page 1 could be completely different than what your friend sees five miles away.
Google Search Console provides proof. This tool shows the actual terms people searched when your website was among results. You’ll see your site’s average rank for those searches too. Using this data, it’s clear that you should not judge your SEO success on how one particular phrase ranks when several other similar search terms — the phrases people actually used — are showing your site in the top positions.
An SEO strategy that builds your website’s relevancy and authority in the desired geographic area will ensure the site will be visible for a variety of search phrases. This increases the number of opportunities for your website to be seen among results.
High-quality content on and off your website and using strategic link-building tactics (internal links and backlinks) is a critical component to achieving relevancy. This strategy protects the website’s viability against the frequent changes in Google’s rules and priorities.
Measure organic growth.
Now that you know to ignore keyword rankings, how do you assess whether your organic search relevancy and visibility are growing?
- Ensure the number of new site visitors arriving via organic search is growing, month to month and year over year.
- Ensure the number of visits and new visitors from within your target market is increasing.
- Expect increased conversions, particularly those from visitors who arrived via organic search. Track the volume of unique phone calls to a website call-tracking number and the number of contact forms submitted.
Don’t let ego fuel your obsession with keyword rankings. And remember that your personal search experience is not necessarily what your prospective customers see. Nor does it represent the effectiveness of other companies’ SEO campaigns or whether their websites successfully convert customers.
Focus on the outcome. Your goal is for the phone to ring and your inbox to be inundated with contact forms so your schedule is full. To get there, trust an expert who will build a campaign that uses a proven process, creates original branded content and monitors relevant metrics.