How to evaluate site performance and identify valuable keywords for mobile SEO

With mobile traffic predicted to surpass desktop traffic in the next few years, it’s important for site owners to get to grips with the intricacies of mobile SEO.

Numerous studies have proven that mobile search spend is increasing year-on-year, however we’ve seen evidence to suggest that brands aren’t fully aware of how to optimise pages for mobile search.

We’ve previously given a board overview of the topic in a blog looking at how mobile and desktop SEO differ and how to improve rankings.

And in the second of a series of posts, I asked three search experts how should site owners go about evaluating their site’s performance in mobile SEO and how to identify the most valuable keywords for mobile search…

How should site owners go about evaluating their site’s performance in mobile SEO?

Andrew Girdwood, media innovations director at LBi

Site owners should look at their analytics. What is the percentage of desktop to mobile traffic?  What is the percentage of desktop to mobile traffic with brand compared to non-brand? Are popular mobile devices missing entirely from your visitors?

Traffic and understanding what is happening on-site should always be the first port of call for an SEO evaluation. The concept of “keyword positions” is fading as a greater number of result pages are localised, personalised or both.

However, impressions, clicks, CTR and average position data can be found in Google’s Webmaster Console. If a hero keyword term has a good ranking in desktop, if search frequency remains stable and yet your impression count is dropping overall then this may indicate a problem with mobile SEO.

James Bentham, SEO account manager at The Search Laboratory

Site owners can use Google Analytics to compare the organic desktop traffic share against total desktop traffic, versus mobile organic share against total mobile traffic share.  

Site owners can also analyse keywords to see which ones are driving desktop traffic and see if these are the same for the mobile versions.

Another useful tool is Fetch As Googlebot within Webmaster Tools which allows you to see how Google is viewing HTML code on website. Site owners can set this as a mobile Googlebot and crawl a certain page to see if it’s struggling to read any of the code. 

Additionally, the user agent and switch add-on in Firefox renders the page to how mobile Googlebot would view it. This can help with choosing which content to prioritise. 

Aleyda Solis, SEO and web analytics consultant

I would advise that they follow the steps I shared in my Mobile SEO audit guide in State of Search. 

The key steps include:

  • Checking their current mobile search visibility and traffic in Google Webmaster Tools and Google Analytics.
  • Identifying more mobile search opportunities with a mobile keyword research.
  • Analysing their pages functionality in mobile devices through emulators.
  • Verifying the mobile speed performance with PageSpeed Insights mobile filter.
  • Checking how the site appears in the mobile search results.

How can site owners identify the most valuable keywords for mobile search?

Andrew Girdwood

Understand what your business objectives are as a first step. Are you selling impressions and ad space? You’ll want traffic, popular and long tail terms. 

Are you selling objects or services? You’ll need to know what people will buy from their mobile and how they’ll refer to those products when typing on a small screen. 

You should have a good idea of the profit margin for each transaction. Check your analytics to see which mobile terms are sending traffic appropriate to your business goals. 

Sites with a high percentage of (not provided) keywords should use some rough formulas to try and apportion that traffic out.  This analysis provides your first wave of “hero” keywords and the first generation of end goal objectives.

You’ll have two types of keywords; end goal objectives and supporting terms. Supporting terms are those that complement the end goal objectives; long tail considerations, semantic search relationships, localisations, audience targeting phrases, etc. 

I recommend organising these into portfolios alongside target audiences and the content and assets you have to connect the two. If you discover you don’t have the content to chase an important keyword portfolio then that informs your content strategy for SEO.

Keep reviewing your business needs and your analytics. This process will identify which end goal keywords should be pushed harder and which selections from the supporting terms should be promoted to an end goal term.  

Build new keyword portfolios to support your new end goal terms and repeat the process.

James Bentham

Site owners should use Google’s Keyword Tool, and by changing the device options to mobile only it’s possible to analyse whether desktop terms are bringing in good volume traffic to the mobile site. 

If not, site owners can then start looking at alternative keywords and build their information architecture around these. 

Google Analytics data also displays which keywords are driving traffic. You can then assess which keywords are not being actively targeted but are referring traffic via mobile search and amend your campaign accordingly. 

When undertaking keyword research for mobile, site owners should take into account click through rate (CTR). This is because CTRs for page one on mobile can be up to 90% and the drop off is a lot steeper as you go through the rankings.

PPC data is also useful for seeing where conversions are coming from. If some terms are converting better on mobile than on desktop it’s advisable to build the site around these.

Aleyda Solis 

By doing a mobile keyword research, identifying:

  • The keywords driving mobile search visibility currently to their site with Google Webmaster Tools (there’s a mobile filter to verify this specific information).
  • The keywords driving mobile organic traffic currently to their site with Google Analytics (there’s a mobile segment to verify this).
  • The keywords their mobile audience is already using to search for relevant products or services in their industry, that they might not be targeting already, with Google’s Keyword Tool (there’s mobile filter to verify this specific information).
  • Additional relevant keywords to their business used by their audience with other tools such as SEMRush, that although don’t have a mobile filter they can use to identify the ones that are relevant and then use the Google’s Keyword Tool to verify its specific search volume for mobile search.  

With this information they will learn which are the keywords that are already providing them mobile search visibility and traffic, the ones that they might want to prioritise in their mobile SEO process and which are the ones that have the higher potential in their sector, that are popular among their audience and that would be beneficial to target with their mobile site.

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How to evaluate site performance and identify valuable keywords for mobile SEO

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