How mobile homepage optimization deepens engagement for content creators

Nearly 40% of direct visits take place on mobile devices and in the next two years, we see that number surpassing 50% of mobile homepage visits. 

This is great news for organizations that have already put mobile audience engagement strategies in place. For everyone else, higher mobile engagement starts with improving the primary gateway to your content — the homepage. 

We analyzed mobile data across our global publishers to identify the behaviors that encourage deeper reading and explain why it all begins with the homepage.

Device-based engagement patterns have emerged

Reader behaviors have evolved in the years since mobile devices grew in sophistication, forever changing the way we access content. In reviewing our global publisher data, we’ve seen that: 

  1. Mobile visitors are more loyal
  2. Mobile direct visitors exhibit different behaviors than direct desktop visitors
traffic overview-mobile homepage optimization

Let’s dig a bit deeper into the above points. We’ve found that on mobile homepages, the average visitor spends 40% more time actively engaging than their desktop counterpart. They are also 20% more likely to click. This is why content curation is so important, which we go into deeper below.

Mobile homepage interactions: What to expect

For mobile homepage readers, what they see is tied to what you’ll get in engagement. When we compared three metrics — scroll depth, Engaged Time, and clickthrough rate — by device, we discovered the following:

  1. Desktop readers are scrolling further
  2. Mobile readers are engaging longer
  3. Mobile readers are more likely to click
heat map on scroll depth for better mobile homepage optimization

The chart above shows how mobile homepage visitors scroll to 25% of the page, compared to 34% for desktop. A significant percentage if you think about the size of a typical mobile screen.

(For further reading, see: Hot tip: Use this scroll depth heat map for a simple view of reader behavior)

Organizations should take this data as positive news — there appears to be a huge opportunity for homepage optimization via experimentation. To engage this rapidly growing audience, mobile homepages can no longer replicate desktop; rather, they must be treated as their own unique experience.

Why mobile users don’t become subscribers

Organizations are putting resources towards subscriptions to capture steadier streams of revenue. What they are now realizing is the importance of device-based strategies as part of the process.

To better understand these relationships, our Data Science team analyzed subscriber status changes (i.e., conversions or churns) that took place across publishers in January 2019 to see how the devices they used may have influenced those conversions. 

At first glance, the data suggests that publishers should focus their web conversion user experience efforts on tablet and desktop. However, the churn/conversion ratio is highest on mobile (which also has the greatest number of users).

bar graph on subscriptions by device

This data suggests that the mobile web subscription and/or login experiences on websites are in need of critical improvements. As for what may be slowing readers along the subscription journey, the data points to user experience. For starters, it could be slow loading speeds or difficulty navigating through form fills during the sign-up process. This experience will likely lead to more exits than entrances into the conversion funnel.

While publishers have been increasingly aware of the importance of finding readers where they are, conversions are closely tied to creating a frictionless experience once they’ve arrived.

(For more on this research, see: Channels, conversions, and churn: Why better mobile UX is key for subscriber revenue)

What this means for mobile content creators

Our analysis of mobile data suggests that the homepage experience is overdue for a major rethinking. Here’s what media organizations can do now:

Build mobile into your multi-channel strategy. The diversity of referrals — from social, direct traffic, or email — show us that there’s a chance to create channel-specific optimizations. Use your historical data to see how readers interact with mobile content by channel to identify areas of improvement within your strategy.

Curation is key. If readers are only seeing 25% of your mobile homepage content, make it count. Use your engagement data to understand the types of content that resonates most with mobile readers. Once they arrive, give them every chance for Recirculation deeper into your site.

Untether the mobile user experience from desktop. The tendency to simply pare down and replicate the desktop experience for mobile will no longer suffice for today’s audiences. Regardless of the referral source of your audience, a difficult user journey can only hurt your chance to grow reader engagement and loyalty.

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