How to Conduct a Comprehensive Mobile Parity Audit

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The mobile-first index is coming. Are you ready? Find out how to conduct a mobile parity audit so your rankings and user experience stay intact.

The shift in user behavior from desktop web browsing to mobile web browsing is largely attributed to the rapid growth in technology and the fact that we have powerful computers in our pockets. Because of this rise in mobile internet usage compared to desktop internet usage, Google announced that they would start mobile-first indexing on July 1, 2019 for all new websites. What this means is Google is now going to be crawling/indexing your website from a mobile smartphone agent, compared to a desktop user-agent.

Initially set to go into full effect in September 2020, mobile-first indexing will be fully rolled out by March 2021, based on a recent announcement.

With this change being rolled out to every website, it’s important to prepare for it. As digital marketers and business professionals, we tend to work on our web properties from a desktop view, but making sure the mobile view is just as good is something to consider.

That’s where a mobile parity audit comes in. Being sure that your mobile experience matches that of your desktop experience will yield positive results from search engines and your users.

In this comprehensive guide, we will cover what a mobile parity audit is and how to conduct one. Let’s get started!

What is a Mobile Parity Audit?

A mobile parity audit is an audit that is focused on comparing the differences between a mobile and desktop experience and noting errors.

The term “parity” is defined as “the state or condition of being equal”, which is what we are trying to achieve in light of the mobile-first index.

In most cases a mobile parity audit will be quick due to responsive websites, but it’s always best to check.

And for sites that have built separate mobile website experiences, this is an audit that shouldn’t be looked over.

How to Conduct a Mobile Parity Audit

Tools You Will Need

To conduct a mobile parity audit, you’ll need to use a crawling tool and a spreadsheet software.

Screaming Frog

Screaming Frog will be used to crawl your website with different user-agents.

Spreadsheet Software (Microsoft Excel or Google Sheets)

Google Sheets or Microsoft Excel will be used to sort and filter through data to fuel the analysis.

Collect the Data

Crawl the Website with the Googlebot (Desktop) User-Agent

Open up Screaming Frog and navigate to “Configuration” > “User-Agent”.

Screenshot of where to find the user agent setting in Screaming Frog.

From there choose “Googlebot (Desktop)” under “Preset User-Agents”.

Screenshot of Googlebot Desktop User Agent in Screaming Frog.

Start the crawl by entering your URL.

Once finished crawling, save the Internal HTML pages.

Screenshot of where to export internal HTML pages in Screaming Frog.

Crawl the Website with the Googlebot (Smartphone) User-Agent

Open up Screaming Frog and navigate to “Configuration” > “User-Agent”.

From there choose “Googlebot (Smartphone)” under “Preset User-Agents”.

Screenshot of Googlebot Smartphone User Agent in Screaming Frog.

Start the crawl by entering your URL.

Once finished crawling, save the Internal HTML pages.

Compile the Data into Spreadsheets

Once you have both of your sheets of data exported from Screaming Frog, you are going to line up your URLs. Metrics you want to pay attention to are:

  • Inlinks
  • Crawl Depth
  • Word Count
  • Title Tags
  • Meta Descriptions
Screenshot of Google Sheets showing the Desktop URLs.
Screenshot of Google Sheets showing the Mobile URLs.
Screenshot of Google Sheets for the difference in metrics.

Analyze the Data

This is the most important step, since it is where you will be drawing actionable insights from. These are things you will want to pay attention to:

Do the amount of pages crawled match?

When looking at your combined spreadsheet, take a look to see if the number of pages crawled match. If there is a set of pages that aren’t showing up on mobile, that may be a sign that you are missing internal links somewhere.

Are there any pages or sets of pages different in crawl depth?

Inspect the crawl depth of both sets and take note of any pages that have a difference. Maybe pagination changes from desktop to mobile or there is a sidebar with internal links that disappears.

Are there any noticeable differences in word count?

The number of words is okay to be different, but if there is a large difference, it should be investigated. Being sure that the mobile version has the same core content as the desktop page will ensure rankings don’t take a dip when the crawler changes for your site.

Check to see if there are pages missing internal links. If there are inconsistent inlinks, that could impact your rankings if not already on the mobile first index.

Is the metadata consistent?

If you rely on desktop to ensure your metadata is what you want it to be, like meta descriptions and title tags, comparing those to mobile is imperative. In some cases the metadata may be different and porting over the version you’ve been optimizing is the next step.

Conduct a Visual Audit

After you’ve run through the various questions outlined above, you want to conduct a visual audit to confirm that those things are occurring. Do this by having two windows open, one in mobile device view and the other in normal desktop view.

Screenshot of mobile vs desktop, parity audit, conducting a visual comparison.

Alternatively, you can look at it on a laptop or computer and on your smartphone.

If you suspect there is a noticeable difference in word count, you may notice that the text missing on mobile is a sidebar “about” description.

In instances like that you’ll be fine.

Place your focus on areas that will have a higher impact.

For example, if your key landing pages are now 5 clicks away from the homepage on mobile instead of 3, that should be resolved.

Key Takeaways

Maintaining a positive user experience between devices is imperative for success. You don’t know if a visitor will come in on their iPhone or on their laptop. The mobile parity audit will ensure you hit those points and are prepared for the complete shift to the mobile-first index.

  • Mobile parity audits are for achieving parity between desktop and mobile website experiences.
  • If you have a responsive site, the mobile parity audit will be relatively quick.
  • Pay attention to the highest impact discrepancies.

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