First Steps To Understanding Where Your Mobile Presence Fails

Performing a mobile audit for your website is a serious undertake and you have to know exactly what you’re doing. The mobile web is constantly shifting and, for the last 3 years, we’ve been helping our customers identify their mobile strategy’s strengths and weaknesses. After countless iterations, we came up with a recipe and we’re ready to share it with the community.

We’re doing it because we want to see more online publishers become increasingly aware of the experience they are providing to their mobile users. Building a responsive website is no longer the path to a mobile user’s heart – you have to go the extra mile and understand that just trying to fit all that content on a smaller screen is not an infallible formula that will keep users captive to your content.

This post is just the first in a series of comprehensive articles that will take you on a journey to uncover the true potential of your mobile website. Here are the key points we are going to cover in this article:

  • How is mobile traffic influencing your overall website traffic?
  • How do mobile users get on your website?
  • Where do they come from?
  • Who are they?
  • How much time do they spend on your website?

Answering these questions is crucial to understanding your current mobile presence, discovering areas you should improve and ultimately shape your future mobile strategy. You should read this article twice: first, to learn what you should be looking at when conducting the audit and second, to actually do the analysis itself. Let’s begin:

1. Identifying your mobile traffic

I’m just going to guess that you’re using Google Analytics to track your website’s traffic, in which case what you’ll have to do is to simply authenticate into your account and navigate to Audience > Mobile > Overview:
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Here’s where you’ll find your traffic based on the Device Category: desktop, mobile & tablet. The distribution varies, but typically it will look something like this:
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For this particular website, 12% of the traffic comes from mobile & tablet devices. In other cases, you’ll see higher numbers of 30% or even well over 50%. However, what’s interesting to acknowledge here is not the number itself, but the evolution: are mobile users accessing the site more often? Ideally, here’s what you want to see:
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To generate this report, you’ll need to choose from the left menu Audience > Overview, click on “+ Add Segment” and select “Mobile Traffic” and “Tablet Traffic” from the list of segments. Also, make sure you select a time period of at least 6 months.
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Notice that we’ve used “Sessions” as our metric, but you could also change that to “Users” – usually the two are correlated. What this chart tells you is that the mobile & tablet traffic is increasing month by month, which is indeed satisfying to see because it means your mobile users find your content valuable and they’re returning to your website for more.

Now, this is the tricky part!

If you compare the mobile traffic evolution with the desktop traffic, you might notice that the former becomes flat over time, even though the desktop traffic is increasing.
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This is a vital piece of information, because it basically contradicts the global mobile trend: mobile usage has already surpassed desktop usage in 2014, and Gartner expects mobile traffic to rise to 59% in 2016. Obviously, not being able to discover that trend into your own website’s traffic is a strong signal that you’re missing out on a huge opportunity.

It might be that you don’t have a mobile-optimized version or you have a responsive website that is performing poorly. It’s a mistake to think that solving the screen-size issue by means of a responsive theme is the only thing that mobile users care about, when in fact their behavior is clearly telling you a different story. This is where you’ll need to ask yourself: how can I enrich their mobile experience when they land on my website? Well, for starters, you need to understand their mindset, who they are and where did they come from. Let’s dig a little bit more.

2. How do mobile users get on your website ?

You might find yourself in a situation where you don’t have a single source of mobile traffic, but rather a mix of channels (Organic, Referral and Direct). No matter the combination, the idea would be to see how you can replicate these results within that channel and how to improve and grow the other sources. For example, in the above report, e-mail marketing doesn’t drive mobile traffic, in which case it might be a good idea to refresh the e-mail marketing strategy and see if there’s anything that can be improved in the messaging targeted towards “on the go” users.

Using the left panel, navigate to Acquisition > All Traffic > Channels and notice that the report that has been generated contains data on: Referral, Organic Search, Direct, Social, Email.
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Multiple scenarios may apply:

      • The majority of mobile users land on your website through “Organic Search”.This is actually a validation of the fact that your website is mobile-SEO friendly. This is important because Google announced that starting April 21st, 2015 they will penalize non-mobile optimized websites. You want to make sure you’re not in the red zone when it comes to Google’s mobile ranking system.
      • Mobile users are referred to your website.You need to go deeper and identify your referrals. You might realize that the top resources that are driving traffic to your website are extremely valuable and you can replicate this acquisition model to others in the same industry/market.
      • Your mobile website is being accessed directly by your users.The bigger this number is, the better. Why? Because it tells you that you have retention, loyal mobile users. These are your super users and you should treasure them. Ask yourself: how can I keep the momentum going and get my fans to refer their friends?
      • Social drives the majority of the traffic to your mobile website.Usually this happens when you already have an active social community and whenever you post something, they’re engaged. Digg a little bit deeper to find out where do they come from (Facebook, Twitter, Instagram or others) and what is the type of content they respond to.
      • Or e-mail marketing is the number 1 mobile traffic generator for your website.According to Gartner, 74% of smartphone owners use their devices to check their email. Also, by the end of 2018, worldwide mobile email users will exceed 2.2 billion. By this time, 80% of email users are expected to access their email accounts via a mobile device. In other words, it makes sense to design your e-mail campaign with that in mind.

3. Where do your mobile users come from ?

If you’re a local online publisher, that’s pretty easy to guess, right? However, if you audience spans across the entire world, mobile adoption will be different depending on geographic location, so you need to know what is the core of your mobile traffic and where it comes from. In Google Analytics, you can identify from where your mobile users originate by selecting Audience > Geo > Location from the left panel.
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Knowing this, you could implement a push notification strategy and specifically target mobile users in US with the type of content that’s relevant to them, as opposite to UK or Netherlands where the same messaging wouldn’t produce the same results.

But we can go even deeper than identifying the country or city and take a look at demographics.

4. Who are your mobile users and what are their interests ?

You can enable the Demographics and Interests Reports from either the Admin or Reporting tabs. Once that’s done, you’ll be able to see your users’ age and gender distribution, together with their interests.
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Finding the correlation between age and interests is important for your mobile strategy. The sooner you identify it, the better for your business. One interesting thing we discovered for one of our customers was that, while the majority of their mobile users were 25-34 of age, their average session duration was 1 minute and 30 seconds, opposite to 5 minutes spent on their mobile website by those over 55 years old (accounting for only 5% of their mobile traffic).

This is a good indication that while the content might be of value to few, the majority is not really engaged and as an online publisher you want to get to the bottom of it and understand how your target audience really behaves. That’s where another piece of information comes in handy: content vs. session duration.

5. How much time do mobile users spend on your website?

You can navigate to Behavior > Overview to get the average duration for your mobile pages, but it’s more relevant to drill down and see the content your mobile users are consuming and what it amounts. For this, you need to go to Behavior > Site Content > All Pages.
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The goal here is to analyse the “Average time on Page”, correlate it with the topic titles you have on your mobile website AND the hour of the day when the sessions take place. This report is a bit complicated to generate, so here’s what you need to do, step by step:

      1. From Behavior > Site Content > All Pages, choose the topic/page you want to drill down and select “Performance” view.
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      2. Select “Hour” as the secondary dimension of the report.
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      3. Make sure you have “Show rows” set to at least 25.
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      4. At this point, your table header should contain 4 columns: Page, Hour, Pageviews, Pageviews. Change the last 2 columns to: “Avg. Time on Page” and “Time on Page”.
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      5. Last step is to order everything by “Hour”. It really doesn’t matter if it’s ascending or descending. What you’ll want to see is something like below:
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Let’s see what this tells us: apparently mobile users access the website mostly in the first part of the day and in the evening (notice the peaks). Is this correlated with the publishing schedule of this website? Or is it simply how mobile users behave all together?

According to research conducted by the Financial Times, it seems that people are accessing mobile in situations they never could before and are swapping between devices during the day.
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This is certainly a confirmation of what we’ve seen so far and acknowledging this point is critical to optimizing your mobile strategy. As an online publisher, now I know where to concentrate my efforts during the day and perhaps send a push notification campaign at midday to try to increase the mobile traffic during those hours. Or, I could simply concentrate most of my attention on the desktop website and have some special posts that could go published on mobile later in the evening.

Putting it all together

It all boils down to selecting the option that best fits your situation:

  1. Mobile traffic trend: downwards, upwards or flat? If “flat” is your answer, then you need to change something fast.
  2. Organic traffic is NOT one of your top 3 acquisition channels? If you answer “Yes” to this question, you might be in serious trouble and it has “Google” written all over it.
  3. Direct traffic is NOT one of your top 3 acquisition channels? If you answer “Yes” to this question, you might have a retention issue and you might be losing most of your mobile traffic.
  4. Are you targeting your mobile users based on their location and interest? Be honest! “No” is an indication that you should be reconsidering your mobile strategy.
  5. Is your daily posting schedule synced with your “on the go” users? Again, an honest “No” will be a sign that you should rethink your editorial schedule to best fit with your mobile users.

After reading this post, you may have more questions than answers and that’s normal: it means you’re now in the right mindset to dive even deeper and understand other aspects such as: how do mobile users behave when browsing your website or is your current mobile website speedy enough for their connection? But equally important, you might ask yourself: “I have all these issues, how do I solve them?” Worry not, solving these issue is a breeze after you really understand your mobile users, so concentrate on learning as much as possible about them and you’ll see that the solutions are just in front of you.

CEO at Appticles. Tech-Biz in between guy. Passionate about entrepreneurship. Love to play tennis.