We have recently had a number of conversations with clients that go beyond the normal mobile analytics questions. In particular, they are asking how can they grow their mobile traffic and unique visitors. While this is not exactly our core business, we have seen enough examples across our client base to have a pretty good idea of the various methods and techniques available to the mobile site publisher.
While there are a lot of similarities between growing web and mobile traffic, there are also a number of differences as well as options that don't existing in the web. This post attempts to identify, describe and compare as many as possible to help mobile web site owners determine what is best for their particular situation.
Irrespective of how you try and grow traffic to your mobile site, it is critical that you measure the individual performance of each traffic growth initiative rather than just looking at the top line traffic numbers. This will be covered in more detail at the end of the post but it is worth emphasising right from the start.
While search is the most common way to find standard websites, mobile subscribers do not use search to the same degree as on the web although iPhone users are changing that trend.
Search can be divided into two main categories:
- Organic search where the search engine ranks search results based on their relevance to the search terms entered. The algorithms used for mobile search are assumed to be similar to those used for web search and as such, the number of linking sites, meta information on the page (description, page title, keywords, etc) are all important.
- Pay per Click (PPC) search is where you buy or bid for key words which results in an advertisement for your site being added to the top of the search results as a shown below. Google Adwords now includes options for targeted mobile PPC but the amount of text available for the advertisement is even more limited than for web.
Another complication is mobile search engines such as Google do not automatically offer mobile friendly sites - users have to manually choose this option after running the search as shown in the screenshot below.
Affiliate links are where links to your mobile site are provided by another mobile site and there are two broad types of affiliate links available to mobile content publishers:
- Mobile site directories offer large lists of categorised mobile friendly sites and position themselves as a launching point for mobile browsing. It is generally free to get your site listed in these directories but their effectiveness relies on people a) knowing about the directory, and b) bookmarking and using the directory. As Yahoo found in the early days of the web, people soon get sick of navigating through complicated directory structures and quickly went to Google and its search. Examples include find.mobi, Mobilist and Moobi Web.
- Operator off-deck links are lists of off-deck destinations provided from the mobile operator portal as way of generating data usage charges. Here in Australia, examples include the WWW' tab on Vodafone Live! and the Web' tab on Telstra's and Telstra Bigpond Mobile portal (shown below). These may be provided free of charge or under a sponsorship basis depending on the operator and the position on the page. We have worked with a number of clients who have seen significant traffic growth a results of being listed on the operator portal.
Well established in the web, banner ads in mobile are also an effective way to generate traffic to a mobile site as well as generate revenue for mobile site owners. Banner ads in mobile are generally text or graphic ads situated above or below the main area of content. The Mobile Marketing Association (MMA) has published guidelines on banner ad design and placement, however, most sites looking to generate traffic through banner ads will utilise the services of a mobile advertising network.
Mobile advertising networks act as the broker between mobile advertisers and mobile web site owners.
- A mobile site owner places the relevant code on their pages to pull ads from the mobile advertising network.
- The mobile advertisers orders the advertisement from the mobile ad network, usually with the ability to target specific countries and devices as well as select the type of mobile site on which the ad should be displayed.
There are two ends to the mobile advertising network spectrum.
- Premium ad networks work with high traffic, high profile mobile sites such as operator portals and well-known media publishers. They typically charge on a Cost per 1000 impressions (CPM) basis and may also offer services such as landing page development, video streaming and content downloads. They may also offer broader mobile marketing services and examples include Sensis MediaSmart, Quattro Wireless, and Nokia Media Network.
- Self-service ad networks provide the ability for any mobile site to generate revenue from banner ads and generally work under a Cost Per Click (CPC) model where the advertiser is charged for each click-through to their site. As previously discussed in this blog, these ad networks are susceptible to click fraud, deliver questionable quality in terms of browsers but are far more cost-effective than premium ad networks. Examples include Admob, Mojiva and Mkhoj although all of these would also argue they also offer premium ad network products as well.
With the spectacular success of the iPhone and its App Store, in application advertising is emerging as a new way to drive traffic for smartphones. Similar to banner ads, they provide varying degrees of targeting capability and are typically charged on a CPC or CPM basis.
Traditional Media (with a twist)
Traditional media such as web, print, TV and radio can be used to drive traffic to a mobile site through a number of means. The most obvious is communicating the URL however this requires a) the consumer to remember it, and b) the consumer to be bothered to enter it via their mobile keyboard. The other problem is that it is generally not possible to measure the performance of this type of campaign.
For these reasons, the following options are preferred.
Web to Mobile buttons sit on standard websites and allow the mobile user to enter their mobile number and receive an SMS with the URL for the mobile site. A number of companies offer this service including the ability to customise the web button, specific the URL and report on traffic. This normally involves a monthly fee and a per SMS fee.
The example below is from Campaign Mobile.
SMS Short Codes are able to leverage both traditional media and standard websites, and involve providing a number to which mobile subscribers can send an SMS with a nominated keyword and then receive an SMS with the mobile site URL. Instructions such as "SMS 'Amethon' to 1900 555 123' can be used with print media such as newspaper and magazine ads, billboards, television and radio commercials as well as on websites. The example below is used by carsguide.com.au to market the mobile version of the website.
2D Barcodes are scanned via a special reader using the mobile handset camera and can be encoded with the URL of a mobile web site. The barcode reader normally launches the mobile browser which opens the scanned URL enabling quick and simple access to a mobile site. 2D barcodes can be added to both traditional and online media including billboards, newspaper and magazine ads as well as product packaging. There a number of different 2D barcode standards in use for mobile incuding QR codes and Datamatrix codes. The two examples below are both encoded with the Wikipedia mobile site URL.
|QR Code||DataMatrix Code|
Tracking and Analysing Campaign Performance
As discussed earlier, it is critical that your traffic generation campaigns can be tracked and analysed to assess their performance. The most basic test is to look at Overall Traffic (page views, sessions and unique visitors) to see if growth correlates with the commencement of a campaign. Unfortunately this does not distinguish between multiple campaigns or filter out random traffic spikes from returning users.
The next phase of analysis might be to look at Referrer Information. When someone clicks a link on a web page (mobile or otherwise), the URL for the page containing the link is included in the request. For example, if someone clicks on a link to amethon.mobi from a Google search page, the referrer information includes www.google.com/search. Referrer information from search engines also generally includes the search terms entered by the subscriber to find your site. This can be very useful for analysing SEO and SEM campaign performance.
Amethon's Mobile Analytics reports traffic from individuals referrers in terms of:
- Total browsing sessions
- Total page views
- Average browsing duration
- Average page views per visit
For traffic from search engines, it also provides a number of reports related to the search term including:
- Total visits generated by each search term or search word
- Totoal visits generated by each search term or search word broken down by search engine
This allows a number of campaign objectives to be measured against each referral source but there a still a number of disadvantages to this method.
- Referrer information is only generated from clicks on other web pages. It will not report campaign performance for SMS Short Codes or basic QR codes
- It cannot distinguish between individual campaign from the same referral source. For example, different banner ad designs from the same ad network
- Some handset browsers do not include the referrer information in the request which means their traffic will not be included in this report. We estimate this may be up to 20% - 30% depending on the market.
The best way to track and analyse individual campaigns is to use URL parameters in the links used to direct subscribers to your site e.g. http//:amethon.mobi?campaign=Admob_Banner. If you are running a lot of campaigns across different media types, using multiple URL parameters in the same link can provide insight across a number of dimensions. Here at Amethon we have developed a standard set of URL parameters to provide a consistent approach to campaign performance measurement:
- Campaign: Highlevel identifier for the campaign which may involve a number of individual media types e.g. ?campaign=New_Product_Launch
- Source: Third party on which an individual campaign is run e.g. ?source=Admob
- Medium: The type of media used for the individual campaign element e.g. ?medium=Web2SMS
- Advertisement: Allows different ad versions to be tested on the same media e.g. ?advertisement=Banner_Design_1
For example, a banner ad running on Admob as part of the campaign for a new product launch would be tracked using the following URL:
As shown in the screen shot below, our Mobile Analytics solution can report traffic generated against each of these URL parameters individually.
URL Parameters can also be used to create traffic filters which allows all of our standard reports to be viewed for the subset of traffic generated by the specific campaign. This is ideal for measuring campaign performance in terms of more complicated business objectives e.g. downloading a ringtone, completing a sign up page, etc.
It is not necessary to use all of the URL parameters for every campaign and for some campaigns such as thosed based on SMS, you may need to use a URL shortening service such as tr.im or bit.ly to ensure the full link fits in 160 characters!