Optimizing the reader journey for the unique behaviors of desktop and mobile audiences

We’ve seen that desktop and mobile readers differ in their content consumption behaviors. This also means that meeting your audience where they are most likely to discover your content is critical to creating a better reader journey.

With that in mind, we thought it’d be helpful to delve deeper into those desktop and mobile differentiators, including:

1. Understanding the desktop and mobile landscapes

2. Device-based referral sources

3. Visitor behaviors by device

4. How to see your content through the eyes of your mobile visitors using Chartbeat’s Heads Up Display

Below, we share some tactics to help ensure your content and homepage are built for your diverse audiences and their unique behaviors.

Miss our recent webinar on device-based optimizations? Watch it on demand.

Why optimizing for device-based behaviors matters

We’ve spent a lot of time analyzing engagement data across tens of thousands of sites, and it’s safe to say we’ve learned that not all pageviews are created equal.

In fact, almost half of the readers who land on an article will leave within  the first 15 seconds. That’s a huge problem for a couple reasons. At 15 seconds, people are less likely to remember what they’ve read. And when they don’t engage with your content, they are less likely to come back. More than 60% of those readers that leave your site will not return, according to our data. 


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However, we see that the concepts of engagement and loyalty are deeply connected. The more time a reader spends with content or goes deeper into your other great content, the more likely they are to return. That’s why creating strategies around engagement, not just traffic, can help you build a loyal audience.

 Engagement can be all the difference in turning a one-time reader into a loyal reader, if not a subscriber. So, increasing Engaged Time for the visitors that land on your site — irregardless of device — could make a huge difference on that path to loyal readership.

Why focus on the mobile reader journey?

Direct mobile visits to publisher sites have been growing steadily in recent years, as the chart below shows. Globally, two out of every three visits take place on a mobile device, which makes it easy to see why your mobile visitors are just as important as those on desktop.


Tip for Chartbeat users:

Chartbeat can help you surface opportunities for device-based optimizations by comparing sources and behaviors of this traffic. Filter and analyze these comparisons in real-time so you can take action immediately and engage these readers for longer.


Where are mobile visitors coming from?

Now let’s take a moment to consider the primary referral sources to mobile devices.

1. Google Search

Google Search continues to refer more readers to your content, and much of that growth is driven by readers who are on mobile devices.

Almost 80% of Google traffic is happening on mobile device, driven by Google AMP (Accelerated Mobile Pages). These pages are elevated by Google in search because of their faster load time, driving  a great deal of search traffic to those pages. 

2. Mobile Aggregators

Mobile aggregator growth

Mobile-first aggregators have been referring an increasing amount of visitors over the last few years. SmartNews (based in Japan) and TopBuzz (based in China), have seen substantial growth in recent years.

The growth of these aggregators has significantly upended the traffic source landscape. Smartnews and TopBuzz are now sending notably more traffic than Yahoo, and Google Chrome Suggestions and Google News are referring traffic at a much higher clip than Twitter. It’s worth noting that while this data is from the second half of 2019, it’s still relevant and directionally accurate.

3. Direct Traffic

Direct traffic is becoming increasingly mobile — about 40% of direct traffic is coming from mobile devices. 

It’s also worth noting that a majority of this traffic is coming to landing pages, meaning that the homepage is being viewed more frequently on mobile devices. If you aren’t optimizing your homepage for mobile, you’re missing an opportunity to engage this audience.

Related reading: Mobile aggregators: The next major source of referral traffic

How your mobile audience differs from desktop

Visitors are not just consuming content on mobile and desktop devices, but exhibiting notably different behaviors. 

Direct traffic, otherwise known as visitors who come to your site through a direct URL or bookmark, is also becoming increasingly mobile.

When our Data Science team studied the behavior of mobile visitors, we found that they engage for 40% longer on the homepage, but are only scrolling, on average, through 25% of the page (compared to 34% on desktop). They also found that mobile homepage visitors are 20% more likely to click.

What does this mean for you? 

If you’re seeing a high percentage of mobile visitors on your homepage, consider that while they will probably see less of the homepage, they are more likely to click. Therefore, it’s worth assessing your curation efforts and experimenting with layouts in order to get the most out of your homepage content. 


Tip for Chartbeat users:

Using Chartbeat’s Heads Up Display, you can make sure all of the stories in your hero spots have strong click-through rates. You may also want to  consider swapping out or freshening up the headlines and images on those underperforming stories.


Thinking about loyalty across devices

Loyal readers are no longer desktop-centric. Mobile audiences have shown time and again to be among your most loyal readers. This is particularly notable across native app traffic. 

mobile visitor behavior loyalty

This signals a need to optimize pages on your mobile app with a high number or readers. These adjustments won’t only help improve your relationship with loyal readers, but also create new ones along the way.

How device experiences may impact reader revenue

Device-based experiences take on an even higher level of importance as an increasing number of publishers dedicate resources to converting loyal readers into subscribers. Our data suggests that those loyal visitors coming from your native app and mobile site are ripe for becoming subscribers.

Therefore, it’s critical that any of the actions you are asking your readers to take on mobile — whether it’s signing up for a free newsletter to becoming a subscriber — replicates the seamless experience on desktop.

One way to do so is by recreating the mobile experience using your browser’s developer tools. For a quick tutorial, you can head to our blog.

Key takeaways: Optimizing the reader journey for desktop and mobile

Let’s revisit the initial topics of discussion from this post and our key takeaways.

1. What to make of the current desktop and mobile landscapes

Our data shows that mobile’s growth as a primary source of content consumption is undeniable. Readers are no longer tethered to their desktops, so the experiences that have been built for those devices deserve to be reimagined.

2. Emerging referral sources are being tailored to certain devices

While Google Search continues its dominance among referral sources, it would be imprudent to ignore the emergence of other sources. This includes mobile aggregators or apps, both of which require strategic consideration for your distribution strategies. Therefore, analyzing the sources of your traffic can lead to clearer segmentation and necessary adjustments to improve channel-specific visitor experiences.

3. Visitor behaviors will vary by device

While it’s more difficult to give audiences the full breadth of your content on a smaller screen, there are still growing opportunities to engage readers on mobile. Not only are mobile audiences more likely to click, our data suggests that they have also shown more loyalty when they land on your content from mobile sources.

Now, experiment for yourself. If you want to let us know how your organization’s mobile experience stacks up to your peers, tag us on Twitter @Chartbeat.


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