With the steady rise of mobile search, SEO practitioners these days need to consider how to optimize both their websites and apps for mobile search visibility.
Google’s mobile-friendly algorithm update, released in April 2015, gave a boost in mobile search results to pages with good mobile user experiences. Along those lines, Google has sought to increase the visibility of app content within mobile search results through app indexing. Thus, it’s key to have a strategic approach to our mobile optimization efforts — both on our websites and apps.
The now more mature mobile web and app optimization tools make this analysis possible, and straightforward, too. For example, some of the tools that I use (which I’ll be discussing in this post) are as follows:
- For cross-web-app mobile competitive analysis: SimilarWeb.
- For mobile app analysis: Mobile Action, SearchMan, SensorTower and AppTweak.
- For mobile web search analysis: SEMrush, SISTRIX, OnPage.org, SEOmonitor and URL Profiler.
Use the tools above (or your preferred alternatives) to answer the following mobile web and app search-related questions — doing so will help you identify more opportunities and potential, as well as establish an effective optimization strategy:
1. Which Are Your Industry’s Top Mobile Web & App Competitors?
Let’s start with the fundamentals by identifying your competitors in mobile web and app search visibility. Are your competitors the same for both mobile web and apps? Are they the same as your desktop search competitors?
To identify your mobile web competitors, you can use SEMrush or SISTRIX. Both have a “Competitors” report that includes a “Mobile” or “Smartphone Data” segment:
Something similar can be done to identify your most important mobile app competitors with SearchMan and Mobile Action, with their respective “Probable Competitors” and “Competitors Insights” reports:
2. How Does Your Overall Mobile Traffic Performance Compare With That Of Your Competitors?
A question that arises frequently at the beginning of a mobile optimization process is, “What type of traffic can be expected from the optimized mobile presence?”
Although there’s no completely accurate way to answer (as it depends a number of factors such as your own efforts, your competitors’ activities, audience trends, industry seasonality, search platforms, algorithm updates and so on), you can use a tool like SimilarWeb to check the level of overall traffic that your top mobile competitors already have. That should give you an idea of what is achievable if you maximize the visibility of all your channels:
You can do something similar with your mobile app competitors and look at installs, active users and sessions. This data can also provide a reference to take into consideration:
For apps specifically, it’s good to look at traffic from within app stores, as well. SimilarWeb lets you see this information not only for in-store search (i.e., the app store’s internal search functionality), but also for all in-store related traffic (if it’s a featured app, for example). You can also compare yourself against your competitors:
3. What Are Your Current Mobile Web & App Search Rankings Versus Your Competitors’?
Once you have identified your competitors and their overall performance, you can dig deeper and analyze rankings. Look not only at your own mobile search rankings and trends, but at those of your competitors, too.
Compare this data easily with the mobile web search filters of SEMrush and SISTRIX:
It’s even easier with the “Domain vs. Domain” functionality of SEMrush, to which you can apply the “Mobile” filter (as seen in the following screenshot):
Although not as straightforward, this can also be done with mobile app store keyword rankings, as well as related search volume and popularity metrics. You can get this information from SimilarWeb, but you can also check out SearchMan and Mobile Action, which give you historical data, as well as competition and difficulty-related scores:
Besides in-store rankings and keywords, it’s also possible to obtain external search queries from search engines referring traffic to your mobile app (and your competitors) with SimilarWeb’s “Search Engine Keywords” report.
This will give you a much better understanding of the keywords generating visibility to your app presence and how your competitors are leveraging it already:
Now is also a good time to identify queries for which your competitors are ranking higher than you in mobile web search results and for which they have lost their rankings. You should strengthen your presence for these queries, and in cases where they have lost rankings, take the opportunity to fill the rankings gap.
You can filter the search data you have already identified, or you can also directly use filters to segment it. For example, SEMrush’s “position changes” report shows the new, lost, improved and declined mobile search keywords per month for any site:
In its “Opportunities” report, SISTRIX offers suggestions of mobile keywords for which you are still not ranking as well as you could, with a high traffic potential and low to medium competition level:
Similar options are also provided for mobile app keywords using Mobile Action’s “Keyword Detector” functionality, which shows the unique and shared keywords that two apps are ranking for:
AppTweak also has a “Suggested Keywords” function:
Use this keyword data to prioritize your mobile web and app content development and optimization efforts.
4. How Does Your Mobile Search Visibility Differ From Your Desktop Search Visibility?
Take the keywords that you have identified in the mobile search analysis above and compare them with the top ones that you have been prioritizing in your SEO efforts until now. Are they different or the same? Use your current organic search traffic engagement and conversion metrics to prioritize keywords that will likely bring you greater benefits.
You can find your current organic search data from mobile and desktop web searches segmented with the help of OnPage.org’s Impact report (which integrates with the Google Search Console).
Additionally, SEOmonitor integrates with Google Analytics and Search Console data, providing mobile-segmented reports that include historical mobile rankings per keywords.
These reports make it easy to visualize the change trend, the specific URLs ranking for each keyword in mobile search results, traffic behavior and performance against competitors:
5. Which Of Your Best-Performing And High-Priority Pages Are Still Not Mobile-Ready Or Mobile-Optimized?
Once you have the keywords that you should target for your mobile optimization efforts, identify which pages you should be optimizing for them, and determine whether or not they are already mobile-friendly.
You can automate this by aggregating the relevant or already ranking URLs for the keywords you want to target and importing them into URL Profiler. From here, you can easily verify if they pass Google’s “Mobile Friendly” validation and their “Mobile PageSpeed” score by integrating with Google’s API.
Most SEO crawlers now offer mobile web crawling functionalities. You can use OnPage.org Zoom to verify how the mobile Googlebot crawls your site — if the mobile version is correctly served, if all of the mobile pages are effectively found, if there are any speed issues and so on — and use the Focus functionality to verify the mobile Web settings at a page level:
6. Which Of Your Competitors Are App Indexing, And How Significant Is The Impact? For Which Of These Queries Are You App Indexing, Too?
Besides prioritizing those queries for which you have identified there’s a high interest in both mobile app and web search, you should also take into consideration the ones that your competitors are already targeting and benefiting from.
You can check this by first identifying those apps getting high “external search engine” traffic and the keywords sending this traffic, by using SimilarWeb “External Traffic” and “Search Engine Keywords” reports:
Then you should validate how these competitors are ranking for those keywords in mobile search results. You can easily simulate Android mobile search results by using Chrome’s “Device Mode” as specified here and check if they are app indexing and directly referring to their apps with their presence in search results, how they are doing it and the type of visibility that they’re getting with it:
Once you have validated the mobile search results and app indexing visibility for your competitor’s top external search keywords, you can verify if you’re already app indexing for them yourself by checking your app Google Search Console profile, specifically the “Search Analytics” report.
If you’re already taking these keywords into consideration, how many clicks and positions are you getting from them?
If numbers are low, here are a few things to check:
- verify how your content is shown in search results;
- explore whether you’re ranking with the right page;
- see if the app referral is correctly shown;
- determine if there are errors that have been identified for them in the Google Search Console “Crawl Errors” report, and
- verify the app content accessibility with the “fetch as Google” option.
Make sure you’re effectively app indexing the desired content to target your priority queries, to maximize your visibility in search results with them.
I hope that these steps, questions and tools help you identify even more mobile web and app search opportunities. Remember to also track and monitor your mobile search rankings and behavior once you have started your strategy implementation.
Besides SEOmonitor and OnPage.org, you can use Wincher to track a high volume of keywords per device and SERPwoo to track the mobile SERPs without focusing on specific competitors. For Mobile App rankings, you can use any of the Mobile App analysis tools mentioned before, along with Google Search Console “search visibility” for app indexing visibility.
Have a successful mobile web and app optimization process!