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Mobile traffic is growing but treat smartphones and tablets separately

Written by Ryan | 05-Oct-2012 09:21:00

Many of us chuckle and have flashes of deja vu at the mention of the phrase "this is the year of mobile". Whichever year goes down in history as being "that year", you can't ignore the significance of mobile traffic.... but make sure you consider "smartphones" and "tablets" separately. 

According to Google, mobile search queries have multiplied by 5 times in the last 2 years. Furthermore, 85% of smartphone users have searched for local information and 18% of the online audience is mobile only. Using a cross section of equimedia Client data from Google Analytics, we can see that (in recent months) our Clients' websites vary from having as little as 5% "mobile" visits up to as much as 45%.

But it is important to be clear with terminology here. Many analytics platforms and mobile evangelists aggregate both smartphone and tablet traffic into an overall "mobile" view. However, as many of us know from our own use of tablets and smartphones - we just don't interact with them in the same way.

Google released a "multi screen" report earlier this year in which (amongst plenty of other Insight) they summarised the differing behavioural use of devices as:

  • Computers keep us productive and informed: task/research oriented requiring plenty of time and focus

  • Smartphones keep us connected: quick/local information on the move

  • Tablets keep us entertained: used at home for entertainment and browsing with little time consideration

Therefore, it is important to spend time considering how your web presence is delivered to each of these behavioural groups. In order to do this, you need to split your "mobile" analysis in two: "smartphone" and "tablet".

An example of how important this distinction is can be seen in the traffic for one of our typical Clients. In this case, from Google Analytics, we can see that this financial company gets c. 23% of its traffic from "mobile" devices. On closer inspection, more than 50% of this "mobile" traffic is actually from "tablets", with "smartphone" traffic making up c. 10% of the overall web traffic. These numbers need to be fed into the business case for web development: e.g. is there an opportunity to invest some budget to make the website more "tablet" friendly, rather than focussing all efforts on "smartphones". 

It's fair to say that this analysis might not necessarily lead to you changing your web development strategy hugley, but it is important to keep the distinction and keep a close watch on the way your audience engages with your website.

One final point on smartphones vs tablets: unless you have a very good reason, don't serve your mobile optimised website to tablets too! It is very easy and there are multiple ways to do specific device detection to avoid this. If you have a fully responsive website then that may perform even better......

For the full Google report see the Google Mobile Ads Blog.