Mobile Rank Tracking: Why It’s Crucial & How to Set It Up

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In recent years, Google has really focused on improving the search experience for users on mobile devices. Googlebot now primarily crawls the mobile versions of websites rather than their desktop counterparts, and a website’s mobile-friendliness is a ranking factor.

There’s a good reason for these changes: 63% of searches on Google are conducted on mobile devices. And with more than half of its users accessing Google Search from their phones, it’s important for Google that the mobile search experience is flawless.

But Google’s focus on improving the search experience for users on mobile devices has led to a few new complications for webmasters, marketers, and business owners. Most notably, Google’s search results on desktop and mobile devices can be dramatically different.

For that reason, it’s more important than ever to have both a desktop and mobile rank tracking tool if you’re trying to optimize your website for search.

Table of Contents:

The Difference Between Mobile and Desktop Search Results

In a study conducted earlier this year of 50,000 random keywords, it was discovered that only 13% of websites have the same rankings on both desktop and mobile devices.

For most websites and keywords, rankings are not the same across desktop and mobile.

This can be a problem if you’re not tracking both desktop and mobile rankings. For example, say you finally earned the number-one spot for a high-value keyword on desktop. It feels like a big win. But that same page might rank in position five on mobile. And if most of your organic traffic comes from mobile users, you could be missing out on a ton of valuable mobile traffic.

It may sound unlikely that your site could rank in such dramatically different positions on two different devices, but it’s more common than you might think. The same study referenced above found that 30% of results with page-one rankings on desktop searches were not in the top 10 results on mobile for the same keywords.

Here’s a great example of the difference between the SERPs on desktop and mobile devices. When I search for “data visualization tools” on my laptop, the first non-ad result I see is a big featured snippet featuring content from Forbes. It’s likely that this featured snippet claims the bulk of organic clicks from desktop searches for this keyword.

google desktop search results

But when I search for the same keyword on mobile, a featured snippet from an entirely different site displays:

google mobile search results 1

Below that there’s an accordion that, when clicked, shows additional featured snippets—none of which are the original Forbes article that was highlighted on desktop.

google mobile search results 2

After that, there’s a “People Also Ask” box, followed by an “Interesting finds” box highlighting four articles. Again, the Forbes article isn’t among the recommendations.

google mobile search results 3

Only after a considerable amount of scrolling do I finally see the top traditional organic result: the Forbes article that was highlighted on desktop.

google mobile search results 4

While it was the most-prominent result on desktop, there are 15 other things that appear before it on mobile, all of which probably greatly reduce the likelihood of clicks on the Forbes post for mobile searches.

As you can see, it’s problematic to only optimize your site and track your rankings for desktop searches. You’ll have far more success if you also track how your site ranks for your target keywords on mobile.

How to Use AuthorityLabs’ Mobile Rank Tracking Software

mobile rank tracking chart

AuthorityLabs is a keyword rank tracking tool that lets you track rankings:

  • for searches on both desktop and mobile devices
  • for searches on Google, Bing, and Yahoo
  • by a specific country, city, or even zip code

It checks your rankings every day using a clean browser with no personalization so you’ll know daily exactly where your pages are ranking in desktop and mobile search results. This gives you the information you need to maintain and improve your rankings, driving increasing amounts of traffic to your site.

Below are the instructions for how to use AuthorityLabs to track both your desktop and mobile keyword ranking positions. If you want to try it out for yourself, sign up for a free 14-day trial (no credit card required).

1. Click “Domains” > “Add Domain.”

setup authority labs mobile rank tracking step 1

2. Enter your website’s URL in the “Domain URL” box.

setup authority labs mobile rank tracking step 2

3. For “Platform,” select “Desktop.” We’ll set up mobile rank tracking in a later step.

setup authority labs mobile rank tracking step 3

4. Create a new group for your domain by typing in a group name and clicking “New Group.” If you’re not sure what to name your group, just enter your business’s name.

setup authority labs mobile rank tracking step 4

5. Click “Track Domain(s).”

setup authority labs mobile rank tracking step 5

6. Now, you’ll need to add one or more keywords that you want to monitor your site’s search rankings for. After you’ve added at least one keyword, click “Add Keywords.”

setup authority labs mobile rank tracking step 6

7. When you’re finished, you’ll be redirected to a page showing the domain and keyword(s) you just added. Now you’re ready to set up your mobile rank tracking. Click “Domains” > “Add Domain” and enter your website’s URL. This time, select “Mobile” under “Platform.”

setup authority labs mobile rank tracking step 7

8. Choose the group you created when adding desktop tracking.

setup authority labs mobile rank tracking step 8

9. Click “Track Domain(s).”

setup authority labs mobile rank tracking step 9

10. This time, instead of entering all of the keywords you want to track, just enter one. We’re going to sync the keywords in a later step. When you’re finished, click “Add Keywords.”

setup authority labs mobile rank tracking step 10

11. Now, click “Domains” to see the rows for both your desktop and mobile ranking reports. Next to your group name, you’ll see a sync icon. Click this to sync the keywords you’re tracking for both desktop and mobile search results.

setup authority labs mobile rank tracking step 11

12. It will take a few minutes for the data to sync and update, but after a short period of time, you’ll see a magnifying glass icon appear.

setup authority labs mobile rank tracking step 12

13. Click the magnifying glass icon to see a report showing your rankings for desktop and mobile side-by-side for each keyword you’re tracking. You can also select or deselect the checkboxes at the top of the screen to show/hide rankings for different search engines.

setup authority labs mobile rank tracking step 13

You can identify mobile results by the phone icon that appears. Desktop rankings do not display a phone icon.

identify mobile ranks in authority labs

Finally, if you’re tracking the mobile rankings for a local business website, consider adding a city or zip code when creating your tracking report. Search engines know where your users are located when they’re searching and will produce personalized, location-based results, so adding a location to your tracking will show you where you rank in the search results for people searching in your local area.

enable local rank tracking in authority labs

Related: 15 Unique Things You Can Do with AuthorityLabs’ Rank Tracker

Is Tracking Mobile Rankings Important for Your Business?

For many businesses, tracking mobile rankings is crucial because your customers may be much more likely to search for products or services you offer—or content you’ve written—while using a mobile device. For others, mobile may be less important because your customers aren’t really searching for what you provide using mobile devices.

You can find out what percentage of your visitors are using desktop versus mobile devices using Google Analytics. Simply log into Google Analytics, expand the “Audience” tab, expand “Mobile,” and click “Overview.”

find percentage of mobile visitors in google analytics step 1

A table will display showing the number and percentage of your visitors using mobile, desktop, and tablet devices.

find percentage of mobile visitors in google analytics step 2

If your number of mobile visitors is low, mobile may not be as important for your type of business as others. However, that’s not always the case. It could also be that you have fewer mobile users because your site’s not optimized for mobile or not ranking well. It helps to contextualize this information with other data before coming to a conclusion.

The table above is from my own website; only 17.14% of my site’s visitors during this time period were using mobile devices. So my assumption is that mobile isn’t important for my site. But I should also check to make sure that my site is mobile friendly to ensure I’m not just running users off with a poor mobile experience.

I can do that using Google’s Mobile-Friendly Test tool:

google's mobile friendly test tool

It shows that my site is mobile-friendly, so that’s likely not an issue that’s driving potential mobile users away.

Finally, I can check the mobile rankings for my site using AuthorityLabs to make sure that my mobile rankings aren’t significantly lower than my desktop rankings—another potential issue that could be preventing my mobile visitor count from being higher.

mobile vs desktop keyword ranking positions

For my primary keyword (which is just my name), my ranking is actually a little higher on mobile than it is on desktop, so it doesn’t seem low rankings are preventing mobile visitors from finding my site in search. For my business, then, mobile just doesn’t seem to be quite as important as desktop.

Here’s an example of a business where mobile would be a lot more important. Nearly 40% of this business’s traffic comes from visitors using mobile devices:

percentage of mobile visitors in google analytics

If you discover using the tools above that mobile is important for your business, mobile rank tracking can be an important tool in your SEO toolkit for growing traffic, generating leads, and making sales.

Get Started with AuthorityLabs’ Mobile Rank Tracking

You can use AuthorityLabs’ desktop, local, and mobile rank tracking tools for free for 14 days without ever paying a dime or providing payment information. So sign up for a free trial, use the instructions above to try it out for yourself, and see what new SEO opportunities you discover once you’re able to see where your site ranks in both desktop and mobile search results.

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