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Too Many Companies Are Ignoring Mobile Web Traffic
Marketers are all talking about the massive growth in mobile web access, both in the United States and around the world, but something important to note is that web development teams have been a bit slow to provide mobile specific experiences.
This article will look at what percent of sites have developed a mobile-specific website experience and how they are presenting the mobile content to their users across different mobile handsets.
Once the Quantcast Top Million US Sites Data from 2011 was made public, a company called Mongoose Metrics created a bot that was meant to crawl all these Top Sites and gather data about how they were serving their mobile content.
While the crawler was intended to answer some very specific questions about how mobilization was achieved on top sites, the data mostly show the dearth of Top Sites that are actively addressing their mobile traffic.
Mongoose Metrics began by testing to see what portion of the Top Million sites were accessible to their crawler, and published a cool mobile marketing study with the results.
In the study they found 15,981 sites, or 1.6% of sites, were blocking crawlers and could not be evaluated and 112,346 or about 11.2% returned errors to the crawler. So the other 87.2% of sites were available to evaluate (great news!)
They made the crawler simulate a site visit as an iPhone, and Android phone and a Blackberry, and the results of those crawls are in the table below:
An average of only 7.2% of sites were serving mobilized content. You would think that more marketing departments and CEO’s would demand that they be serving a mobile-specific web experience on their sites, especially since these are the US sites with the ‘top’ traffic in 2011, but, according to this study, that is not the case.
The lack of webmaster attention to mobile traffic could indicate a few different things:
- Companies are ignoring mobile traffic or assuming that people will be able to successfully use a traditional website on their mobile phone.
- Decision makers believe that mobile solutions are still too complicated and expensive and are not expected to generate enough revenue to justify the expense.
- Companies are confused about what their customers want in a mobile experience and don’t know how to address the problem.
- Companies are providing a mobile-specific experience or a mobile-adapted experience that can’t be detected by the crawlers, such as a Responsive Design approach with flexible layout that adapts itself to mobile phones without changing the page code or redirecting to another page.
So what does all this data mean to you and your company if you are about to launch a mobile marketing campaign? The Mongoose Metrics study that generated those results evaluated three different types of mobile publishing:
- Server-Side Redirection
- Selective Serving of Mobile Content (what they describe as “cloaking.”)
The summarized results of the findings look like this:
Based on the data from the Mongoose Metrics analysis, the most common strategy for mobile publishing is with server-based user-agent detection and redirection. This means that when the desktop pages are requested, the server will automatically send people to the mobile version of the page instead.
The next option, which Mongoose Metrics describes as “cloaking,”’ is the second most popular way to serve mobile pages. I prefer to describe this method as “selective serving” rather than “cloaking” because, for the most part, you are deciding to “send” or “not send” content based on the device that is accessing the page, rather than altering the intent of the page.
To understand how it works, consider this example: If there is a massive image on a page, your server might decide to send a smaller, lower resolution photo when a phone is accessing the site. Similarly, if there is heavy Flash video, your server might decide to send a still picture instead.
If you are using this “cloaking” method of mobile content negotiation, make sure that you are showing essentially the same content, so that it does not look like it is an attempt to manipulate the search engines (as in the bad sense of the word “cloaking”).
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